M&S hires Halfords chief to run struggling clothing arm – The Guardian

Marks & Spencer has hired the chief executive of bike and car parts business Halfords in an attempt to revive its struggling clothing, beauty and home business.

Jill McDonald will have accountability for all aspects of M&S’s core non-food business, from design and sourcing through to supply chain and logistics, and will report directly to the chief executive, Steve Rowe.

The appointment comes after months of searching for a new clothing and homewares boss to replace Rowe, who stepped up to become chief executive last year. M&S had courted former Next product director Christos Angelides, but he signed up as head of the Reiss clothing chain.

The role is important to the future of M&S, which has struggled to increase clothing sales in recent years amid tougher competition from the high street and difficulties with its online service. The chain has started switching space towards its more successful food business and away from fashion.

The appointment of McDonald is likely to disappoint the current womenswear, lingerie and beauty head, Jo Jenkins, who will now report to McDonald. However, Jenkins’ role has been expanded to all clothing including womenswear, menswear and childrenswear.

McDonald will also work with Neal and Mark Lindsey, the veteran rag trade brothers, who have been tasked with sharpening up M&S’s clothing supply chain over the last few years.

She will join M&S in autumn after working out her notice period at Halfords, which ends in October.

McDonald joined Halfords in May 2015 from McDonald’s, where she was chief executive of the fast food chain’s UK business.

Rowe said: “I am pleased with the progress we have made in clothing and home over the last year and the time is now right for this appointment. Jill’s first-class customer knowledge and great experience in running dynamic, high-achieving teams make her exactly the right person to lead this all-important part of our business from recovery in to growth.”

McDonald said: “M&S has a unique, special relationship with its customers and I am very motivated by working closely with customers to drive and shape results. I have long been an M&S customer and professional fan, so working with the brand was a career opportunity that I just couldn’t turn down.”

David Jeary, a retail analyst at Canaccord Genuity, said: “This is an interesting appointment from an M&S perspective, since Jill McDonald, whose prior roles include long stints at McDonald’s and BA, cannot be seen as a clothing expert.

“What she does bring is considerable experience in marketing and customer relationship management, which have become even greater areas of focus under Steve Rowe’s tenure.”

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