The retailer has recruited Woolworths South Africa joint head of food Cathy Chapman as head of product development and direction. She starts on Monday, replacing Fiona Moore.
Asda private label director Andy Adcock will join M&S’s food business later this year, and existing food commercial director Dominic Morrey will leave.
The changes come as director of food John Dixon attempts to refresh M&S’s offer, following his appointment last July when Steve Esom was ousted from the role.
Dixon has focused on factors such as improving availability, innovation and promotions such as Dine in for£10.
Allegra Strategies director Steve Gotham said M&S has always set benchmarks for product innovation and quality, but needs to keep up the pace.
He added M&S faces particular difficulties in present conditions. “It’s not a climate that’s conducive to their positioning,” he said. “They’re having to become more aggressive in terms of promotions. These appointments may bring more commercial zeal.”
During the Christmas quarter M&S posted a 5.2 per cent fall in food like-for-likes, but executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose celebrated an “improved trend” and record food takings of more than£50m on December 23.
M&S’s food arm, and the rest of the business, came in for renewed criticism this week from Credit Suisse analyst Tony Shiret.
He questioned the extent of M&S’s financial improvement since the arrival of Rose in 2004, argued for the creation of a “more relevant young chain” selling fashion in smaller stores and advocated the closure of the Simply Food convenience chain.
He said: “We think the company has managed to ‘break’ something that looked in reasonable shape – namely, the food business.
“While rethinking the food strategy did not form part of the operational review, management’s strategies of expanding the financially unproven Simply Food concept and taking food positioning upmarket while taking clothing in the opposite direction have contributed significantly to current food-related problems.”
An M&S spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the hirings or comment on Shiret’s note. She said M&S thanked Moore and Morrey for making a “significant contribution” and wished them well in future.