Marks & Spencer’s new director for general merchandise, Steve Rowe, has said his first priority is to improve the availability of the collection, including its heavily publicised hero pieces, across its UK store network.
M&S has been criticised in the past for having a lack of sizing or key styles in smaller or regional stores. Speaking at a preview of the spring 16 range in London last week, Rowe said it was crucial to get the “right products in the right places at the right time”.
”There has been lots of heavy lifting done in terms of logistics. We have developed a forecasting replenishment system which launched this autumn. The system will give us visibility across all channels and algorithms will forecast what will sell in what store and what size so we can improve our availability.
“We want to see more of the collection in more shops to give shoppers more choice in more places. We also want to move faster. Our style has moved on but we need to be faster and more consistent.”
Jo Jenkins, director of womenswear, lingerie and beauty, agreed that availability was an “immediate priority”: “We have to make sure [the M&S customer] can get what she wants where she wants and in the right size. We’re working hard to make the situation better. How the collection trades is really important and availability is key in doing that.”
Their comments come after M&S’s like-for-like general merchandise sales fell 1.2% for the 26 weeks to September 26.
Womenswear was added to Jenkins’ responsibilities in August following the departure of womenswear director Frances Russell. It was the first change made under Rowe, who took over from John Dixon as head of general merchandise in July.
Rowe subsequently promoted Queralt Ferrer, former head of design for the Autograph and Limited ranges, to the newly created role of womenswear, lingerie and beauty design director in September.
M&S chief executive Marc Bolland said the new team had a sense of confidence, adding: “We have an opportunity to develop one handwriting across womenswear. We are not finished the journey yet but we believe the new team will drive that focus on style and quality as well as our design capabilities.”
Rowe said he spent 15 years working in M&S’s fashion business before moving across to food, so his new role felt like “coming home”.
“I’ve learned many lessons working in the food business and I intend to bring them with me into clothing. We have to excite our customers with newness and innovation.”