Can Bolland deliver the goods at M&S

Marks & Spencer’s decision to appoint Morrisons’ chief executive Marc Bolland will surely raise questions as to whether he is the right man for the job – but analysts are confident he is capable of taking the helm and the appointment is a win-win situation for both M&S and Morrisons.

Marks and Spencer

Malcolm Pinkerton, senior analyst at Verdict Research says: “It’s a real coup for M&S and it’s not going to damage Morrisons. It is a blow but they still have a strong management team and the effective strategy put in place by Marc Bolland will continue.”

Ed Garner, director of research at TNS World Panel agrees that while his exit is not damaging to Morrisons in the short to medium term, in the long term “there is a gap to be filled”.

Bolland’s appointment is somewhat of a surprise, in part because of his relative lack of experience in the non-food and fashion sectors.

M&S has perceived problems with its food business as its positioning means it’s not somewhere consumers can do a full grocery shop. Garner says that Bolland’s experience in the grocery sector makes him well placed to address the problems facing M&S’s food business.

“He saw what Morrisons’ problems were and succeeded in turning it around and relaunching it based around a communications strategy and new advertising that centred on a fresh food message, allied with strong promotions,” he says.

Garner adds that the biggest battle will be fought with Waitrose and to succeed “Bolland needs to outwit Mark Price.”

Pinkerton agrees, saying: “His experience is in brands and FMCG products, but he is perfectly capable of adapting to non-food”.

Sir Stuart Rose has dismissed the idea that Bolland’s lack of experience in fashion and non-food is an issue, highlighting M&S’s strong management teams including general merchandise director Kate Bostock and food director John Dixon.

Sir Stuart instead stressed Bolland’s international credentials from his roles at Heineken NV in the Netherlands, saying: “Bolland is an international man and that is the way M&S wants to go”.

Shortly after the announcement of Marc Bolland’s appointment, shares in M&S rose 5% while Morrisons shares dropped by 5%.

The immediate dip in Morrisons shares following the announcement illustrates an assumption that Bolland was fully embedded in Morrisons, says Garner.

Speculation over who would fill Sir Stuart’s position has been rife since he said
he would step down. Almost every big name in the grocery sector, including Sainsbury’s Justin King and Asda’s Andy Bond, was at some point hailed as the person to succeed Sir Stuart as well as a number of strong internal candidates including Bostock, Dixon and financial director Ian Dyson.

Sir Stuart’s dual role as CEO and chairman of M&S has been a subject of contention since he took over from former chairman Terry Burns in June 2008. He is expected to step down as chairman by July 2011 and says he will “depart gracefully” when the time is right.

Morrisons has said that Bolland will depart at the end of the retailer’s financial year in February, but the details of when he will officially join M&S are not yet clear.

Pinkerton says that the real question now is who will replace Bolland at Morrisons but is confidant that when he is replaced, it will be with an equally strong candidate.

The chain posted the highest growth of the top four supermarkets (8.5%) in the past three months according to the latest TNS Worldpanel and is due to post third quarter results tomorrow (19 November)

Latest from Marketing Week

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here