When Steve Rowe became the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, he very quickly set about establishing a list of priorities.
One was to put the retailer’s flagship clothing division back on track. That’s a question that had taxed his predecessors and to which no answer has yet been fully found.
It’s a prerequisite that a retailer must offer product that consumers want to buy.
But then it’s about everything that happens between product design, buying, distribution and how it ends up in customers’ hands.
The more people involved, the more cumbersome that process can be.
When he took the reins, Rowe said: “One of the things that I have learnt during my time at M&S is that we have a tendency to overcomplicate things.
“I’m a big believer in keeping things simple. Doing things simply means we serve customers better, manage costs and work more efficiently.”
Rowe’s restructuring of executive directors’ responsibilities and slimming down of the operating committee – formerly the management board – from 20 members to seven is evidence that he is putting words into practice.
The changes follow other simplification initiatives, such as designing and buying womenswear by product type rather than by brand, as M&S aims to take a ‘holistic’ approach both to the business and the reality of how customers shop.
The reality of how customers shop is the important point.
Rowe pledged to “put the customer at the heart of the business” when he became chief executive, and the hope is that a leaner senior management structure can help to ensure that happens as fast as possible.
There are some intriguing changes. Perhaps the most intriguing is unresolved.
Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne now has responsibility for M&S.com. Where does that leave multichannel director Laura Wade-Gery, who is on maternity leave at present?
M&S said it will “update on her responsibilities on her return” in September.
There will doubtless be more changes to come.
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