Kate Bostock, the former clothing boss at Marks & Spencer, is to join Coast next month as chief executive. Retail Week takes a look at the career of one of the biggest names in fashion.
Where Bostock would turn up after it was announced that she would leave Marks & Spencer was unsurprisingly, as a fashion supremo, one of the most-talked about topics in the retail industry. After months of speculation it was Asos that brought her back into the industry at the start of the year, handing her the role of executive director of product and trading.
She had been hired to help bring efficiencies to the etailer’s sourcing operation in the face of its rapidly expanding overseas business. However, analysts questioned the suitability between the pairing: mainly how Bostock’s traditional retail skills would fit in with Asos’s fast-moving pace. In the end, it is understood these differences led to Bostock departing after just six months.
A return to the high street and to a retailer like Coast, which has a broader appeal than Asos, naturally appears to be a more suitable fit for Bostock, who said in statement put out by the company yesterday: “It is a great fit for my skills and expertise.”
Coast chairman Derek Lovelock, who will be working closely with Bostock, told Retail Week that she would bring “experience, vision and energy” to Coast, which is seeking to broaden its appeal beyond outfits for formal occasions.
After graduating from Derby College with a diploma in Art and Fashion Design, Bostock started as a trainee at knitwear supplier Klynton Davis, before joining supplier Bent & Son, and later launching her own brand, Charnwood Designs.
In 1994 Bostock began her career on the high street when she joined Next as product director for kidswear, a role she remained in until she was hired at George at Asda in 2001 as product director, where she was responsible for clothing and footwear. Several years later, she was appointed as Marks & Spencer as head of womenswear, and continued to work up the ranks at the retailer before becoming director of general merchandise in 2008.
During her long tenure at Marks & Spencer she spearheaded a more fashion-led offer across the retailer’s labels and sharpened up sub-brands including Autograph, Limited and Blue Harbour.
Bostock was among those touted to replace former M&S chief executive Sir Stuart Rose. However, the M&S clothing boss admitted that she “never wanted to be chief executive” of the retailer. She said: “I didn’t honestly want to do that job. I think that role in M&S is not for me.”
Instead the role went to former Morrisons boss Marc Bolland, a man she’s understood to have had a rocky relationship with.
Bostock, who was number 40 in the Retail Week Power List this year, holds a honourary doctorate in business administration for her services to fashion retail from Manchester Metropolitan University.
She might be considered a fashion guru, but Bostock has admitted herself that she’s been a fashion victim. Her greatest fashion faux pas? A dark purple bum bag with a fur trim and diamantes. “It was pretty gross and I have got quite a lot of pictures with it on, so I obviously wore it a lot,” she reportedly said once.