A look at the list of favourites to succeed Sir Stuart Rose as Marks & Spencer chief executive shows just how chosen headhunter Jan Hall has her work cut out.
It’s an unsatisfactory list. The top external candidates, like Justin King or Andy Bond, are likely to be unobtainable. The internal ones, John Dixon and Ian Dyson, would struggle to convince the City that they had breadth of experience and gravitas to do the job.
The problem is, while running Marks & Spencer is the highest-profile job in retail, the company is only the fourth-biggest quoted retailer by value in the UK. So while their egos might be tempted, that’s just about the only reason King or Bond would give up their very powerful roles for Marks & Spencer.
So alternative scenarios come into play. One is that Marks & Spencer could pick someone from the next tier of outstanding retail leaders – Kate Swann or Simon Fox for example. Swann would hate the profile that comes with the role, however, while Fox, like many other potential candidates, might be handicapped by his lack of food experience.
The other alternative is a candidate from outside UK retail, probably from overseas. That would trigger memories of Luc Vandevelde’s unhappy reign, but times have changed since then and Marc Bolland’s success at Morrisons – which may be the number four supermarket but still has a bigger market capitalisation than Marks & Spencer – has proved that this approach can achieve great results.
Finding someone with the right experience won’t be easy, particularly after the rocky and sometimes unfair ride Rose has been given by shareholders. Anyone from the UK with the experience to impress them is going to be more than a bit wary, and that means the right leader of Marks & Spencer might have to come from beyond these shores.
Look to the stars
From the retail leaders of today to the retail leaders of tomorrow. The winners of this year’s Retail Week Rising Stars Awards deserve particular credit because whether in store or head office, they’ve shown they can deliver top-flight results in the toughest trading environment for decades. Congratulations to them all.
There are few good things about a recession, but one of them is that the status of retail as a career for bright and hard-working young people has grown. After all, as Theo Paphitis sagely pointed out in his opening speech at the awards, it’s not retailers that have needed the Government to bail them out.