Rose ditches traditional structure to divide food and general stores management

Marks & Spencer has initiated a radical restructuring of how it manages its stores as chief executive Sir Stuart Rose gears up to increase its retail space by up to a fifth in four years.

Under new M&S retail director Steve Rowe, the retailer has taken the axe to its traditional geographical structure headed by five regional chiefs and replaced it with two directors responsible for food-only and general stores.

The move is the latest sign of Rose’s determination to strip out layers of bureaucracy at M&S’s Paddington headquarters and focus key managers on the needs of the reshaped business.

The two new directors reporting to Rowe are Neil Hyslop, previously divisional director for Scotland and the North, and Steve Finlan, formerly head of retail operations. Hyslop will oversee all the Simply Food stores, including franchised shops, while Finlan takes charge of all its other stores.

Divisional executive for London and the Southeast John Bowen and Ian Perkins, who headed up the East region, have both left the company.

Rowe took over in March from Guy Farrant, who had been with M&S for 30 years. Farrant’s exit was part of the raft of senior management changes that accompanied Rose’s proposed promotion to executive chairman.

A source close to M&S said the changes will allow the retailer to be less top-heavy and glean efficiencies from a more streamlined approach. It is also intended to help M&S focus on consistent execution across the country, regardless of geographical location.

The only exception to the new structure is Ireland, which is one of M&S’s fastest-growing markets. Divisional sales manager for London and the Southeast Jonathan Smith will take charge of stores in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

An M&S spokeswoman said the changes have been brought in following last week’s announcement in its preliminary results that it would increase its retail space by 15 to 20 per cent in the next three to four years.

“We have made the changes to reflect a growing store base and give us a more focused and efficient divisional structure. This will allow us to deliver the best possible service to our customers and the best support to the current and future needs for the business,” she said.

The retailer’s 26 regional managers, who sat below the divisional executives, will become heads of regions reporting into Hyslop and Finlan. Further changes to this management level have not been ruled out by M&S.

A shake-up of the retailer’s HR structure under new head of HR Tanith Dodge was also expected to be announced internally as Retail Week went to press. Dodge joined from WHSmith in March.