Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe is stepping down from the business after six years and will be replaced in the top job by food boss Stuart Machin.

Steve Rowe in M&S head office

Steve Rowe joined M&S aged 15 and rose from the shop floor to chief executive

Rowe will stand down from the M&S board at the company’s preliminary results presentation on May 25 and will leave the business after its July 5 AGM, following six years in the role. The retailer said Rowe will continue in an advisory role for the new management team for up to a year after his departure. 

The chief executive role will be taken by Machin who will take on responsibility for the day-to-day leadership of the business and the executive committee. 

Machin will also continue to have oversight of his current portfolio of responsibilities, which includes the leadership of the M&S Food business, as well as operations, property, store development and technology.

Chief operating officer Katie Bickerstaffe will be promoted to co-chief executive and be responsible for driving the global omnichannel, digital and data for the business. She will also continue overseeing M&S’ clothing and home, MS2, international and financial services functions, and will join the Plc board on May 25. 

Chief financial officer Eoin Tonge will be promoted to chief strategy and finance officer to play an “enhanced role in leading the future development of the business”. 

The changes are part of the second phase of M&S’ transformation that started under Rowe’s leadership. The board said: “Bringing together these three outstanding leaders will provide the stability, pace and bandwidth required to accelerate the pace of change.”

Commenting on his imminent departure, Rowe said: “It has been an enormous privilege to lead the business I love and have spent almost all my career working for. Leaving will be, in many ways, very difficult for me but I feel that after six hard years it is the right time to pass on the baton. 

“I am enormously grateful for the support I have had in driving through the extraordinary transformation programme of the last few years from shareholders, the board, but most of all the many thousands of colleagues in the business. 

“A piece of my heart will always remain with the M&S family and I feel that we have done many of the hard yards to restore the business to what it should be. I’m proud that I am leaving a very strong team that will lead it into the next growth phase. I wish them every success.”

Rowe joined M&S at the age of 15 and rose from the shop floor to multiple management positions across the business before taking the chief executive role in 2016. 

One of his first steps as CEO was outlining a transformation plan for the business. 

Highlights of his tenure at the business include the joint venture Rowe spearheaded with pureplay Ocado, doubling the brand’s online penetration in clothing and homewares and right-sizing M&S’ historic store estate. 

M&S chair Archie Norman said: “Steve has been a magnificent servant of M&S, putting his heart and soul into the job. Coming from the shop floor to lead the business, he epitomises our values and has lived and breathed M&S for so many years. He is living proof of the opportunities M&S provides for great people to succeed. The M&S he took over was in parlous shape and throughout my tenure, he has been fearless in grasping the nettles and facing into the challenges and has delivered massive progress. 

“As we move into the next growth phase, he leaves a very strong team to take the business forward. But as someone who has touched so many colleagues across the business over the years, he will be much missed and goes with our huge affection and best wishes.”