Marks & Spencer has hired a senior Tesco executive to lead its latest attempt to reinvigorate its struggling clothing business.
Richard Price, the head of Tesco’s F&F clothing and homewares label, has worked at M&S before. He spent seven years with the chain, rising to become menswear director, but left in 2012 after becoming disillusioned with the then M&S strategy.
Price said: “I left the business because I felt it was drifting in the wrong direction but now feel we have a real chance to make it special again. The new team has already started to improve product and value and I am looking forward to working with them.”
The 52 year-old businessman, who also ran the now defunct department store chain BHS for three years, is a more orthodox choice than his predecessor Jill McDonald, a former boss of Halfords and McDonalds who had no fashion experience before joining M&S. She was sacked in the summer after failing to buy enough stock to meet demand of a range promoted by TV presenter Holly Willoughby. M&S boss Steve Rowe described the stock levels as the worst “I have ever seen in my life”.
M&S has been unsuccessfully trying to reinvent itself for nearly two decades, but current chief executive Steve Rowe and chairman Archie Norman are promising it will be different this time. The retailer is redesigning its fashion and food ranges to broaden its appeal and attract more young families – essentially the same demographic as F&F.
At M&S’s recent half-year update there was little evidence so far of progress being made in clothing with like-for-like sales down 5.5%. Rowe has admitted that the revamp of its clothing business is 18 months behind schedule after the McDonald fiasco and that he is still trying to fix “the basics”: its buyers still bought too many clothes that didn’t sell, while popular lines sold out.
Price’s start date has yet to be confirmed, while McDonald was this week named as the new chief executive of Costa Coffee.
Richard Hyman, the independent retail analyst, said Price was a solid appointment but suggested he was a “manager rather than a visionary”. He said: “He has done a good job at Tesco and has the right kind of experience and understands the M&S culture.”