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Transformation Takes Time – Is Marks & Spencer back?

Despite the cost-of-living hikes, M&S has been the star performer across UK retail in 2023, outshining rivals with stellar share price gains and a return to the FSTE 100 after a four-year absence.

Today’s 6 monthly profit before tax stood at £360m, up 75% on the same period last year. Of particular note was M&S’s performance in its food category with sales up almost 15% and margin at 4.3%.

M&S is set to open nine new UK stores in November, its biggest-ever store opening month.

What is M&S doing to gain this renewed momentum?

Bold leadership bets: adopting a Chief Executive and Co-Chief Executive structure is not easy to pull off. It requires a clear delineation of responsibilities and sound stewardship from the Chair and Board.

By effectively leveraging the transformation experience at the top, it has enabled M&S to accelerate its turnaround

Whilst commonplace in retail language today, M&S has stated its goal to be the leading omnichannel retailer and adopt a digital-first way of working. I note that their press release states: ‘’ More to do to drive online growth and improve returns on data, digital and technology investment’’

Hiring well to drive a high-performance culture: M&S’s employer brand used to be rooted in long employment tenures and promotions from within. Now two-thirds of its top 150 leaders have been hired in the last 5 years. This illustrates why hiring new blood was so important to turning around a struggling brand.

M&S has 30 million customers across the brand and a strong and valuable UK customer data lake through the combination of the Sparks loyalty programme, M&S.com, the M&S credit card and Ocado.

So good news for sure and congratulations to the leadership team. The investments from transformation take time to provide a return but M&S appears to have stuck to its guns and invested heavily in people.

The question now is how sustainable is this recovery?


About BartonRock: BartonRock is the executive search partner for high-growth consumer and retail businesses

We manage the careers of executives whose know-how and commercial acumen steer the strategic direction for companies to thrive.

Our assignments search for executives who understand how to operate in dynamic and entrepreneurial environments.

For more information visit: www.bartonrock.com or contact guy@bartonrock.com or call +44 (0) 20 8092 6048.

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