Marks & Spencer has appointed Katie Bickerstaffe chief strategy and transformation director to accelerate the retail giant’s turnaround efforts, it said late on Wednesday.
Effective April 27 and working a four-day week, she moves up from a non-executive director role to oversee and develop M&S's strategic transformation programs and will report to group chief Steve Rowe.
Specifically she’ll lead the strategy team, M&S Bank and energy teams and IT, serving on both the PLC board and operating committee.
She succeeds strategy director Melanie Smith, who last year became CEO of Ocado Retail, the joint venture between online grocer Ocado Group and M&S.
The vastly experienced Bickerstaffe was previously executive chair of energy provider SSE Energy Services and is a former boss of the UK and Ireland division of electricals retailer Dixons Carphone.
It’s an interesting appointment given the trend in retail to appoint people with wider strategic and often IT experience to key roles, rather than opting for those who’ve had direct experience in the retail categories the company focuses on.
It’s understood Bickerstaffe’s experience in IT and her overhaul of Dixons’ store estate qualified her for a bigger role in M&S’s turnaround. The company said Steve Rowe was instrumental in Bickerstaffe taking an executive role.
"Her experience in leading roles at UK food and non-food retailers and track record of delivering large-scale change will be invaluable as we accelerate our transformation," said Rowe.
Bickerstaffe added: “Marks & Spencer is a fantastic brand with huge potential. I’m really looking forward to working with the management team to step-up the pace of the transformation.”
The appointment comes just two days after rival John Lewis Partnership announced a major shake-up of its executive platform, merging the teams behind the retailer’s department store and supermarket formats in a bid to save money and adding its own strategy head. The partnership appointed a new executive director of strategy and commercial development, Nina Bhatia, effective 17 February.
M&S, which has 1,035 stores and serves 32 million shoppers, is currently without a permanent finance director and is yet to name a start date for Richard Price, its new fashion boss recruited from Tesco in November.