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Bolland can lead clothing at M&S, insists Rose

Marks & Spencer executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose has dismissed concerns that incoming chief executive Marc Bolland has no clothing experience and said “he is smart enough to learn”.

Rose, who spoke at Drapers’ sister title Retail Week’s annual conference yesterday, said Bolland, who will join M&S on May 1 after completing his gardening leave from grocer Morrisons, has a strong team around him to help him drive the retailer’s fashion business.

He said: “Marc does not need to know the detail. He clearly needs to know what the big strategic picture is, he needs to know what patch we trade in, but he does not need to pick blue, green or yellow blouses.

“And he does not need to worry too much about the pricing strategy, we have got people who can do that. He is smart enough to learn”.

At Morrisons, Dutchman Bolland successfully turned the grocer in to a major force in the food sector and is an experienced brand man, having also worked at Heineken.

Rose told delegates Bolland is “absolutely the right man” to become chief executive of M&S, hinting that the retailer may be braced for a period of radical change. He defended Bolland’s potential £15m pay packet, saying that it would deliver “value for money” for shareholders if growth targets were met.

Rose, who said he would step down from his role earlier than the latest date of July 2011, said he would leave M&S in a much stronger position than he found it and flagged the possibility of a move by the retailer into a plethora of new goods and services.

“We needed someone who can grow the business, and Marc has international experience, brand experience, and proven experience in running a business. He ticks most boxes and at the end of the day we chose the best possible candidate,” he said.

Rose added that Bolland’s experience would give M&S the opportunity to become a “brand umbrella” selling new goods, such as branded cosmetics, or services, such as telecomms. Rose said that if he were joining the business today, that would be the direction he would take it in and gave Tesco as an example to aspire to.

He expects the growth of online sales to transform the purpose of shops but insisted physical stores have a long term future and are a business strength. Rose said: “It may be you don’t have racks of blouses. You might have a post office, a cafe, a place for online deliveries to be made. You’ll still have an M&S store but it won’t be a traditional M&S store.”

Having invested in “bricks and mortar, clicks and mortar and people”, he said, “the big test for the new CEO is to look at how to move it forward”.

Meanwhile, M&S deputy chairman Sir David Michels has ruled himself out of the race to succeed Rose as chairman.

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