M&S names Bickerstaffe chief strategy & transformation director

Food, fashion and homeware retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has named Kate Bickerstaffe as its chief strategy & transformation director, as the business continues to seek more growth from its non-food arm and evolve its customer proposition.

Currently a non-executive director at M&S, Bickerstaffe is an experienced retail figure, having left her role as Dixons Carphone’s UK & Ireland CEO in 2018 following spells in senior roles at Somerfield and Kwik Save earlier in her career.

She will be joining the M&S executive team on 27 April, serving on the board and operating committee. And the new job comes at a time M&S is undergoing a major transformation, with CEO Steve Rowe aiming to shift the business to become a “digital-first” retailer more in line with how consumers now shop.

“Katie has been a great help to me and the wider management team in her role as a non-executive director and I am delighted that she will now be part of the executive team,” Rowe explained.

“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.”

M&S’s most recently announced results, covering the 13 weeks to 28 December 2019 and the all-important festive trading period, showed that group sales totalled just over £3 billion, which was down  by 0.7% year on year. Food revenue jumped by 1.5%, while clothing and home division was down by 3.7% – or 1.7% on a like-for-like basis.

Rowe said at the time of the results that there was “a challenging trading environment in the lead up to Christmas”, adding that “one-off issues”, involving waste and supply chain in the food business, and the shape of buy in menswear, held the company back. These are the type of issues Bickerstaffe will be looking to help iron out in her new role, especially those related to clothing where growth has stagnated for several years now.

Bickerstaffe’s appointment comes at a time of much senior personnel change in the wider retail sector, with large players, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, among those appointing new CEOs, set to assume their roles later in 2020. Other large retail organisations to have named transformation chiefs recently, include B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher, and toy retailer The Entertainer, which have appointed John Wartig and Julie Price to those positions respectively.