Some might criticise him as a ‘lifer’ but Steve Rowe’s visceral connection to Marks & Spencer will be a big plus for the chief executive role.
Man and boy, Steve Rowe has pretty much spent his career at Marks & Spencer.
He is one of a generation who might be described as ‘a Sieff in all but name’, a reference to one of Marks & Spencer’s founding families and Marcus Sieff, who took the retailer to new heights.
Rowe’s relationship with M&S is almost visceral.
Other than a stint along the way at Topshop, he has climbed the ladder at M&S from Saturday boy to the boardroom.
Other than a stint along the way at Topshop, he has climbed the ladder at M&S from Saturday boy to the boardroom
He has garnered experienced in all its main departments, taking responsibility along the way for everything from retail ops in the stores to multichannel.
So he is what some snidely describe as an M&S ‘lifer’. That no doubt will lead to questions about whether an internal successor to incumbent boss Marc Bolland is the right choice, or should the retailer once again have looked outside its hallowed walls for a fresh perspective.
After all, the big challenge facing M&S is the same as it has been for years – how does it get the top line moving on fashion?
But Rowe’s deep links to M&S – his dad was also once a director – and his immersion in so many departments should stand him in good stead.
Rowe would not claim to be a fashionista, but he knows the M&S customer well. He will bring instinct as well as intelligence to the task.
He is a good people person. A retailer of the old school who can be tough when necessary – some colleagues nicknamed him ‘Nails’ – he nevertheless has the common touch and can draw the best out of colleagues.
And while he has risen through the business by a traditional route starting in store, he has developed into more than a ‘trader’.
It has been noticeable over the past few years, as he has taken on roles ranging from running the food division to heading general merchandise, how he has developed a broader view of M&S in its entirety rather than adopting a silo mentality – sometimes a problem at the retailer in the past.
Making the leap from holding divisional roles, no matter how big, will, however, be the biggest change of mindset that Rowe will have to make
Making the leap from holding divisional roles, no matter how big, will, however, be the biggest change of mindset that Rowe will have to make.
But on the evidence so far it is a mental shift he is perfectly capable of making.
Now that M&S is better set up from an infrastructure and multichannel perspective – Bolland’s legacy – it is over to the former Saturday boy to bring back the fashion magic and sparkle once synonymous with M&S, keep the existing customers satisfied and woo a new generation of shoppers.
PS. A little known fact about Steve Rowe. He’s a Pimlico Plumbers van spotter.
Marks & Spencer’s new chief executive Rowe to succeed Bolland this weekend
- Currently reading
Opinion: Former Saturday boy Rowe should make a good M&S CEO. Here’s why