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Marks & Spencer reshapes management team as it moves to the next phase of its transformation programme – and beyond lockdown

M&S is now moving on with investing in the brand following lockdown. Image courtesy of M&S

Marks & Spencer is reshaping its management team as it moves to the next phase in its transformation programme. 

M&S, ranked Elite in RXUK Top500 research, says that it is ready to move out of the first, fixing the basics, stage of its plan and on to a second phase of reinvesting in the brand as it looks towards growth.

It says that so far it has reshaped its store estate, and the way it uses technology, while also improving both products and value. In recent years it has reshaped its business, closing stores as it adjusts for a world in which more of its sales take place online. It stepped up the pace of change further as the pandemic hit.

Last May, M&S chief executive Steve Rowe warned that shopping would never be the same again following the Covid-19 lockdown. Then, he said that the retailer had discovered it could work in a “faster, leaner, more effective way” – and that it would now work towards becoming “a renewed, more agile business in a world that will never be the same again”. The Covid crisis, he said, had accelerated the trend towards digital and brought forward changes to the shape of the high streets. The following month he launched the Never the Same Again programme to learn from that.

In July, M&S said it would cut 950 jobs as it stepped up the pace of its transition towards becoming a digital-first business, in the wake of a Covid-19 lockdown in which customers quickly moved to do more of their shopping online. The jobs were lost as the retailer introduced a new retail management structure, designed to free up staff to focus on the customer, while removing role duplication and making leaders more accountable.

And in August it said it would cut 12% of its shop floor workforce – equivalent to about 7,000 jobs – as online demand grew by 40%. And in March this year, the retailer shifted further towards ecommerce, expanding its international online business to 100 markets as shoppers around the world also did more of their shopping online. 

Now the focus will be on building the M&S of the future – and it is moving its staff into new roles as it does so. Katie Bickerstaffe and Stuart Machin will be joint chief operating officers. Bickerstaffe will have board-level responsibility for data, services, clothing, home and international businesses, with Richard Price and Paul Friston staying in place as managing directors of clothing and home and international, respecitvely. Machin will oversee operations, property, store development and IT.

Elsewhere, Eoin Tonge will lead strategy and transformation planning in his role as chief financial officer, and Sacha Berendji will move from a focus on future stores to work on speeding up the development of stores – including the use of digital.

M&S chief executive Steve Rowe says: “Over the last three years we have built a great team of people at M&S and covered a lot of ground. Now we need to move into the next phase, and that means accelerating the pace of change, and Stuart and Katie will bring even more impetus to our core businesses. With that I will, with Eoin’s support, be better able to concentrate on building the M&S of the future and our path to growth.”

The news comes in the same weeks as M&S stores have reopened their cafés and changing rooms. Changing rooms reopen with rules around cleaning, social distancing and hygiene following a three-week trial at two stores on Oxford Street, London. 

Ali Grainger, head of clothing and home retail at M&S, says: “Since reopening last month, it’s been fantastic seeing customers returning to our stores wanting to reignite the experience and fun of shopping once again. With events, holidays and hopefully a summer full of sunshine just around the corner, people are really starting to think about their wardrobe, and as such, they want to try before they buy – so we’re delighted that they’re now able to, with all the necessary measures in place to keep them safe and well.”

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