Go for a retailer, industry urges Marks & Spencer

The retail sector united this week to press Marks & Spencer to select an experienced retailer to replace Luc Vandevelde as chairman.

Vandevelde will leave to focus on other interests, including what is likely to be an increasingly demanding role at French group Carrefour.

Dixons president Sir Stanley Kalms, last week named a Tory peer, said M&S must pick a retailer for the job.

He said: 'The new chairman ought to have retailing instinct and experience. He's got to understand fast-selling retail and that, in retail, buying is more important than selling.'

M&S executive director Vittorio Radice appeared to support Kalms, demanding someone with 'heart, personality and warmth'.

Harvey Nash headhunter Natalie O'Neill said M&S needs a retailer with buying experience and a knack for dealing with the City. 'The person that suits that profile is Stuart (Rose). He's good at surrounding himself with good people. He would want to take the reins and have a look at the senior management,' she said.

Mike Sheard, chairman of search firm MGM International, said: 'M&S's problem has not been its inability to deal with the City, but its inability to get product right. It needs someone with a passion for retailing.' He also backed Rose for the job.

Separately, Sainsbury's is expected to give an update on a successor to chairman Sir Peter Davis next week.

M&S shareholder Teresa Vanneck-Surplice, the famous self-appointed spokeswoman for the retailer's core shoppers, said:

As a retailer, the most important point is identifying and knowing your market. M&S has fallen into the trap of chasing younger customers, but they have forgotten to ask: 'Where is all the money?' My friends with 16-year-olds couldn't get their children to wear M&S clothes if they dragged them into the store and offered to pay the bill. One of the problems is that there are no women (retailers) on the main board. Women would bring ideas that men don't have and help to stir the intellectual pot.