Saturday 6 May 2017

M&S Share Price Lifts Following Archie Norman's Appointment As chairman

Archie Norman

Marks & Spencer investors have backed the appointment of retail industry veteran Archie Norman, the former Asda chief executive, as its new chairman.

The company’s shares gained more than 5% after it was confirmed Norman would succeed Robert Swannell, who is retiring from the board after seven years as chairman, at the start of September. The retail turnaround expert will be paid £600,000 which is 30% more than Swannell who earned £450,000 for the same role.

Norman joins M&S as its chief executive, Steve Rowe, battles to improve sales in its under-performing clothing division, overseeing a wide-ranging overhaul that involves shutting stores and revamping its product ranges and prices. M&S said earlier this week it had recruited Jill McDonald, the Halfords chief executive, to manage the struggling clothing, home and beauty business.

Norman said: “I am looking forward to taking on the role of the chairmanship of Marks & Spencer as the business under Steve Rowe’s leadership faces into the considerable challenges ahead in a rapidly changing retail landscape.”

Vindi Banga, the company’s senior independent director who led the selection process, said: “Archie is one of the most respected business leaders in the UK with extensive experience as both chief executive and chair, and a proven record in retail and other areas.”

Best known for turning Asda around in the 1990s, Norman has also served as chairman of ITV, Lazard and Hobbycraft, as well as stints at Kingfisher and Energis. Last year the former Conservative MP was appointed lead non-executive board member of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

City analysts welcomed the retail veteran’s appointment with Clive Black at Shore Capital describing Norman as a “formidable” choice, adding that his working alongside Rowe would put “two very strong characters at the helm of a once great British label that is trying to find its purpose and relevance to the British shopper to profitable effect”. Black said: “Messrs. Norman and Rowe should be a force for good for M&S in our view.”

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said Norman could be considered “too heavyweight” for the non-executive role and it remained to be seen how much of “a back-seat driver” he would be.

“We are still rather bemused that that Jill McDonald is to be the next M&S clothing boss,” said Bubb. “But leftfield choices can sometimes be inspiring and it’s worth recalling that many thought Matt Davies of Halfords an unusual choice a couple of years ago to be head of Tesco UK.”

Rowe, who began his retail career aged 15 as a Saturday boy at M&S’s Croydon store in south London, took over as chief executive a year ago. Since taking the helm he has prioritised improving retail basics, such as cutting clothing prices and running fewer promotions, rather than make the big strategic decisions analysts say will be necessary to ensure M&S’s survival on the high street.

In November Rowe said it would shut 30 UK stores and converting 45 more into food-only shops as its reduces the amount of shopfloor space devoted to clothing. The first six stores to close were named last month and include “full-line” stores – which sell clothing, homeware and food – in Portsmouth, Slough, Warrington and Wokingham.



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