The Steve Rowe revolution at Marks & Spencer continues with the news that Melanie Smith has been hired as the retailer’s director of strategy.
Although her job spec has not yet been revealed, the onus on any strategy director is to look beyond the next quarter, and indeed the next year, to understand how the business should look in five or even 10 years’ time.
These type of director-level roles – just as commonly described as business transformation, consumer insight or digital – form a large part of our assignments and are all about transitioning a business from one state to another.
The majority of retailers are trying to reposition themselves from ‘bricks’ to ‘clicks’ businesses in line with changing consumer habits.
Driving this change are cerebral people such as Smith whose task is to understand how the retail environment will change in the years ahead, what consumers will want from retail brands, and what their own customers will look like.
“There’s no reason the retailer cannot become the force of old – just don’t expect it to happen overnight”
This is particularly relevant to M&S, which has faced accusations of being slower to respond to the shift to online than some competitors.
If Smith can relieve some of the burden on Steve Rowe and work effectively with the likes of McDonald, Norman and M&S.com boss Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne to accelerate M&S’s recovery, there’s no reason the retailer cannot become the force of old – just don’t expect it to happen overnight.
Smith, who is currently managing director of boutique consumer goods advisory and investment boutique Smith Hebert, is an interesting choice for the newly created strategy role and may turn out to be another clever hire by Rowe.
Her CV is impressive and diverse with more than a decade at McKinsey to her name in addition to senior roles at Talk Talk and Bupa.
The M&S leadership team suddenly has a very fresh look to it.
“The sense is that Rowe is thinking about the bigger picture with his recent senior hires”
While there remains a core of people with strong and specific skillsets within the business, the sense is that Rowe is thinking about the bigger picture with his recent senior hires.
Like McDonald, Smith comes from a largely non-fashion background. This is instructive since it implies that Rowe believes the challenges facing M&S’s fashion division extend beyond the products themselves.
And while food is ticking along nicely there is surely more that M&S can do to leverage food’s success across the wider business.
It may take years to determine whether Smith has been a success in her role – M&S is a juggernaut that will not turn quickly. But the intent is clear for all to see. Now comes the bigger challenge of delivery.
|Name||Role||Company exiting||Company joining||Role|
|Jill McDonald||Chief executive||Halfords||Marks & Spencer||Managing director for clothing, home and beauty|
|Archie Norman||Marks & Spencer||Chairman|
|Judy Collinson||Senior vice president of merchandising for the US||Christian Dior||Burberry||Chief merchandising officer|
|Paul Price||Chief merchandising officer||Burberry|
|Angela Morrison||Chief information officer||Direct Line Group||Debenhams||Technology and supply chain director|
|Sally Hyndman||Group HR director||Dixons Carphone||Debenhams||HR director|
|Phil Jordan||Global chief information officer||Telefonica||Sainsbury’s||Group chief information officer|
|James Williams||Online trading and digital marketing director||Jigsaw||Phase Eight||Director of marketing and online trading|
|Richard Smothers||Chief financial officer||Mothercare|
|Alex Williamson||Chief executive||Goodwood Estate – Goodwood Group||House of Fraser||Chief executive|
|Chris Dee||Chief executive||Booths|
|Patrice Louvet||Group president of global beauty||Procter & Gamble||Ralph Lauren||President and chief executive|
|Andy Harding||Mothercare||Interim chief customer officer|
|Nigel Keen||Property director||Waitrose|
|David Haydon||Director of merchandise, marketing, supply chain, store development and ecommerce||Officeworks||Bunnings UK and Ireland||Trading and commercial manager for Homebase|
|Richard Reed||Vice president for international customer development||Reckitt Benckiser||Boots||Trading director for the UK and Republic of Ireland|
|Dan Rubel||Group strategy and communications director||Shop Direct||RAC||Unannounced|
|Nicky Line||Feather & Black||Creative and product director|
|Melanie Smith||Marks & Spencer||Strategy director|
|Rob Silsbury||Senior director, marketing and ecommerce||Ralph Lauren||Dune||Marketing and ecommerce director|