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M&S unshaken by Dixon’s departure but Bolland’s successor unclear

Marks & Spencer’s clothing strategy will remain on course despite the unexpected exit of executive director for general merchandise John Dixon, retail analysts have said.

M&S confirmed last night (July 16) that Dixon is leaving the business after almost 30 years to take up a chief executive role elsewhere. He will be replaced by Steve Rowe, currently executive director for food. Trading director for food Andy Adcock will step up to be director of food, reporting to chief executive Marc Bolland on an interim basis.

Kate Calvert, analyst at Investec, said it will be “business as usual” at the retailer: “John is clearly ambitious and wanted to be chief executive so it was a case of ‘should I stay or should I go’ with this one.

“M&S has depth of management and things will continue as normal as they always do when someone leaves. Steve has experience of the company and the strategy has already been set out so it’s just a question of executing it. It won’t change the direction of clothing at M&S.”

Maureen Hinton, global research director at Conlumino, agreed: “I think it will be business as usual as Rowe comes from a similar background as John but they need someone with a clothing background to come in. Belinda Earl is there but she is in charge of design not running the business side of things.”

However, she added that the successor for Bolland is now up in the air as Dixon was tipped to take on the chief executive role.

“John was given an opportunity he couldn’t refuse and he clearly doesn’t think Bolland is going anywhere soon. If they were to take someone in from the outside to replace Bolland that would suggest a complete change in strategy so they will look within if they want to stick to the path they are on.

“Now that John has left Steve Rowe and [multichannel director] Laura Wade-Gery are two obvious names, but online hasn’t been doing great and the clothing division is like the poisoned chalice.”

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said: “It is a shame John is leaving, but it looks as if he was moving down the internal pecking order at M&S, having been given the thankless task of running M&S clothing.

“It remains to be seen how far the current M&S food boss Steve Rowe, now the favourite to replace Marc Bolland as chief executive in due course, will be handicapped by taking on John’s role and how fast the star is rising of the new M&S food boss, one Andy Adcock.

“Bolland has said he’s staying for at least a year, so this is all about internal politicking.”

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