Nov 5, 2017
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M&S chairman Norman wants cheaper, faster, fashionable clothing

Nov 5, 2017

New M&S chairman Archie Norman could be at odds with the retailer’s senior management as it works to turn around its fashion business.


M&S CEO Steve Rowe has vowed to get back to the core customer (that’s ‘Mrs M&S’ who’s in her 50s) but former Asda boss Norman reportedly thinks that too much of the fashion the retailer makes is aimed at the 55-plus age group.

An internal document seen by the Guardian is believed to say that on a recent store visit, he told staff that the company needs to target women in their 30s and 40s too. And it said he thinks the company needs an “urgent” move to more affordable entry prices.

However, M&S told the newspaper that the document was based on second hand reporting of those who had been present during Norman’s visit and that the author hadn’t been there. It also said some points had been misinterpreted.

Whether that’s the case or not, analysts said that Archie Norman is someone who is expected to shake up the businesses he works with. He is known as a troubleshooter/turnaround specialist (having done just that at Asda, Australia’s Coles and broadcaster ITV). But he’s non-executive chairman at M&S and so doesn’t have direct managerial responsibility, although he’s a voice that will clearly be listened to.

Meanwhile, the internal report also said he believes the company’s entry price fashion pieces need to be cheaper and to have a more fashionable edge, and that the buying cycle for fashion is too long.

Steve Rowe will deliver the company’s latest update on Wednesday this week (November 8) and profits for the latest half are expected to be down 9% or 10%. With the turnaround clearly not yet yielding fruit, pundits are predicting that Norman’s influence could mean an even more aggressive approach to the turnaround strategy.

There has also been speculation that he may want to push through closures of under-performing stores more quickly than the company has been planning, while another press report also said that wants to change the head office culture to allow for faster decision-making by managers.

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