The new head of European operations at TJX and stalwart of the business is ideally placed to execute its store expansion plans. Tiffany Holland reports.

TK Maxx

British-born Michael MacMillan may not be an immediately recognisable name in the retail industry but at TJX, parent company of TK Maxx, he is a long-term staffer, having worked there for 25 years.

Last week, the notoriously media-shy value retailer revealed MacMillan is to head the European operations of TJX from January 29, taking over from Paul Sweetenham.

Part of the reason why he may have slipped under the radar is because of his time across the pond at TJX Canada and in his present role as head of TJX’s largest division, the Marmaxx Group.

There eBay’s European general manager of fashion Miriam Lahage met him when they worked together at Marshalls. “He is a great guy,” she says about MacMillan. “He has experience across all key parts of the business, starting off in finance, then logistics and systems on to technology and stores and merchandising, which really is a core part of the business.

“In everything he has been tasked with in his roles he has excelled and delivered results.”

At present, as senior executive vice-president of TJX, he overlooks both TJX and Marshalls in the US. Marshalls is the largest off-price retailer of clothing and homeware in the US, with 830 stores according to its website.

Lahage says: “He has really been able to get great vertical expertise in each of the different areas, so he has a well-balanced view of the business.

“Michael is very warm and down-to-earth and when working with his team he makes each one of them feel valued and appreciated. He has the ability to really stretch people and make them the best they can be, so his success is, in part, due to his competence at building great teams.

“He really empowers people, innovating in his role, creating a strong executional excellence. He takes a solid leadership [approach] and can make the division stronger than anyone could have imagined.”

MacMillan’s key aim in his Marmaxx role has been to grow both the TJX and Marshalls businesses, opening stores across the US. Observers note that with his range of experience store openings and growth will continue to be the crux of his role at TJX Europe – no doubt also in part due to the business’s focus on expansion in the UK and across countries such as Poland and Germany, while eyeing more expansion opportunities possibly in other European countries.

Planet Retail senior non-food analyst Isabel Cavill explains: “TJX is looking to grow its store count quite heavily across the UK and Ireland, with an aim to grow HomeSense, the home furnishings stores, to as many as 150 in the UK.”

Currently, there are 24 HomeSense stores here, Cavill says: “TJX has a very strong business model, so with the amount of time MacMillan has been at the retailer and his understanding of chief executive Carol Meyrowitz’s values, he is well-placed to roll out the European strategy.

“TJX has not been as internationally led as other US players so we may see more plans to grow into countries like Spain and France.”

Lahage believes the new role is a big opportunity for MacMillan. “He is a savvy businessman who has delivered results in the largest division of the TJX business and while TK Maxx has a big presence in the UK it is still early days for Germany and Poland.”

If MacMillan succeeds in replicating his success in the US, he could become known as the man responsible for taking TJX in Europe to the max.

Career history

February 2012 Senior executive vice-president, TJX Europe

February 2011 Group president, The Marmaxx Group

2008 to January 2011 President, Marmaxx

2003-2008 President, Winners Merchants International

2000 to 2003 Executive vice-president, Winners Merchants International

1985 to 2000 Various roles in finance, systems, distribution and merchandising at TJX, Winners Merchants International and Marmaxx