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Sir Stuart Rose to step down early as chairman

Marks & Spencer executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose has said he will step down earlier than July 2011 and hailed incoming chief executive Marc Bolland as “absolutely the right man” for the job.

Speaking at Drapers’ sister title Retail Week’s annual conference, Rose said he would step down “a little earlier” than the date originally set for his departure. He added that he has not started the search for a new chairman.

Rose told delegates that Bolland, who joins from Morrisons in May, is “absolutely the right man” to become chief executive of M&S, hinting that the retailer may be poised for a period of radical change.

Rose said that 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.”

Discussing his legacy at Marks & Spencer, Rose highlighted improvements that have been made during his tenure, saying that in 2004 it was “a mess, and on the brink of disappearing”.

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 today ruled himself out of the race to succeed Rose as chairman.

 

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