Executive search is a rigorous process that requires bespoke solutions and deep market knowledge.
But it can also be about opportunism – being ready to seize on the serendipity of the right candidate becoming available at the right time or a candidate being ready for a move after being passed over for a promotion at their current employer.
White Stuff’s appointment of M&S’ director of clothing and beauty Jo Jenkins as its new chief executive looks like an example of the stars aligning at just the right time.
Jenkins was recently overlooked for the job of managing director of clothing, home and beauty in favour of Jill McDonald, a strong candidate albeit someone with considerably less fashion experience than Jenkins.
I don’t profess to know the drivers behind Jenkins’ decision to take the White Stuff role, but as a headhunter I’d be thinking that the timing may be perfect for her to seek a new challenge outside of M&S given the opportunity for further internal promotion is likely to be closed for the foreseeable future.
White Stuff chair Debbie Hewitt notes, quite rightly, that Jenkins will bring great customer insight, relevant product knowledge and strong store operations experience to her new role.
“Perhaps this felt like something of a consolation prize to Jenkins given her depth of experience in retail fashion, which has also included a 15-year spell at Next, ultimately as womenswear director”
She rejoined M&S in 2013 as director of lingerie and beauty, having spent the first ten years of her career with the retailer. She was promoted to the position of director of clothing and beauty in 2017 when McDonald joined as the new fashion boss.
Perhaps this felt like something of a consolation prize to Jenkins given her depth of experience in retail fashion, which has also included a 15-year spell at Next, ultimately as womenswear director.
At White Stuff she will replace Jeremy Seigal who this summer announced his intention to step down after four years as chief executive.
It feels like a good move for Jenkins, who will get the chance to put her stamp on a well-loved brand that has so far been reasonably resolute in facing down some of the challenges facing high street fashion retailers.
Who knows, we may see her return to M&S for a third spell at some stage in the future?
As for M&S, Jenkins’ departure will leave a big hole in the clothing team and a priority will surely be to restock the fashion knowledge bank that Jenkins takes with her.