Marks & Spencer’s appointment of Archie Norman as chairman, starting in September, was great news.
It brought to an end a busy week for M&S, which also revealed the appointment of Halfords chief executive Jill McDonald as managing director for clothing, home and beauty, and unveiled its latest marketing campaign – a departure from the norm.
Norman brings near-unparalleled retail and business transformation expertise.
He combines an understanding of the value of people – and wants the best – with the practical ability to get under the bonnet of a company and tune the engine.
The street intelligence is that Norman has been impressed by M&S chief executive Steve Rowe.
That’s good news because it means that both should be aligned in their determination to reshape the famous retailer and give it fresh purpose.
Rowe may famously have started at M&S as a Saturday boy, and he may be the son of a former director.
But he has shown himself willing to take brave choices at M&S and to challenge the status quo despite his long association with the business.
“As Norman has said on many occasions, not all turnarounds succeed. But basic to success is that there must remain ‘a beating heart’ to support the patient”
He took the difficult decision to cut jobs, he has acted to bring clothing prices more into line with the competition and rationalised the plethora of choice, and he has begun looking at the retailer’s store estate.
His mission is to reconnect with shoppers by bringing contemporary relevance to M&S’ traditional values – values which made it the great retail institution it is.
As Norman has said on many occasions, not all turnarounds succeed. But basic to success is that there must remain “a beating heart” to support the patient.
M&S’ pulse is still powerful so, as the retailer bids once again to take a few steps forward without one back, hopes will rise that this time the journey will reach its destination.
M&S’ share price rise on the day that Norman’s appointment was disclosed showed that investors are willing to buy into that possibility. Together, Rowe and Norman could be the team to convince shoppers of M&S’ continued retail relevance.
Halfords seeks a boss who will stay
Petrol-heads’ and cycling enthusiasts’ specialist Halfords has built up an enviable reputation, although perhaps one that’s giving chairman Dennis Millard a bit of a headache, as a feeder for bigger retailers.
It’s testament to the Halfords board’s ability to recognise and attract talent.
Millard told me after the news of McDonald’s departure: “I think we set a very high standard in our choice of chief executives. We’ve taken very good people and, I hope, turned them into great people.”
While facing the same challenges as other retailers, such as the implications of Brexit, Halfords is on track to meet full-year expectations, and the focus is on continuing to implement an established strategy.
Millard will soon be perusing the CVs of candidates to take the wheel at Halfords. He will hope that, this time, he will once again find the talent he’s looking for, but that the new chief executive is on board for a long-distance journey.