The appointment of former WHSmith finance boss Alan Stewart as chief finance officer of Marks & Spencer has been welcomed by City analysts.

Stewart, 50, replaces Ian Dyson and will join the food and fashion giant by the end of October.

At present he works for private equity-backed aircraft leasing firm AWAS but was at bookseller and stationer WHSmith from 2005 until 2008. At WHSmith, M&S said “he played a key role in delivering the group’s improved performance”.

M&S chief executive Marc Bolland said: “Alan has an impressive track record and will be joining us with extensive experience of retail and other highly-competitive industries.”

Stewart said: “M&S is one of the UK’s strongest retail brands. I’m delighted to be joining and returning to the retail sector.”

Credit Suisse analyst Tony Shiret, who has been an outspoken critic of M&S during the tenure of Sir Stuart Rose - Bolland’s predecessor as chief executive and still chairman - welcomed Stewart’s appointment.

Shiret said: “He seems to be in the zone. He’s the sort of person you want - experience of retail, turnaround of deeply damaged brands, a good team player, good on the numbers and with a significant background on cost control.”