This Wednesday is red letter day for new Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe as he reveals his strategic thinking.
That’s when new Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe, who took up the role in April, is expected to reveal his strategic thinking as the retailer issues full-year results.
As an M&S ‘lifer’ intimately familiar with M&S’s food and clothing businesses, it’s hardly likely that Rowe will signal any sort of dramatic about-turn.
Instead he is more likely to seek to rekindle and make more contemporary some of the traditional strengths that made M&S such a powerhouse in apparel over so many decades.
Reliving the past is as impossible in retail as it is in any other sphere of life, but fundamental company values frequently endure and can remain the wellspring of appeal across generations.
It’s making those values relevant in today’s transformed retail landscape that can often be the big challenge, and that’s where executional excellence comes in. How the values are executed upon is at the heart of great shopkeeping.
Rowe’s recent management restructure, and changes to buying and merchandising to reflect how customers actually shop, indicate that he is attempting to create the conditions for operational excellence, which of course has been his main task throughout his career at the retailer.
There will be no evidence on Wednesday of whether such changes are proving successful – it’s far too early to be able to tell.
So Rowe will really be selling a story: that he is the man to restore M&S’s fortunes, that he knows what the problems are and he knows how to fix them.
The share price reaction will be a gauge not only of business performance, but how convincingly Rowe can tell the story about where M&S goes next.