A challenge never knowingly underestimated

It’s a big job Mr Bolland. You come with a big reputation. But there is a lot of hard work ahead if you’re going to restore the jewel of the British high street to its former glory.

What’s your strategy?

You have already turned round one of our big grocery retailers. Your ability to focus on marketing, learned from more than 20 years at Heineken, meant that a lack of retail experience didn’t stand in your way. Now you have a hell of a job to do at a far bigger beast than Morrisons. M&S must diversify, modernise and reshape its business.

Your main challenges? Take your pick. The online business needs to grow fast and encompass everything M&S does. The website still feels like a shell of something potentially much greater. The food division must raise its game, and its margins. The “dine in for £10” offer, now a family favourite, is hardly designed to make money. The clothes business has more quality competition than ever and customers hardly know about the M&S home and furniture ranges until they go to the website. And then the choice is limited.

Essentially, you must take on the John Lewis Partnership (JLP). If you’re going to take the next six months to conduct a review of the business, just as you did at Morrisons, think about what you can do to not only rival the JLP’s stronger John Lewis and Waitrose propositions, but surpass them. You can do it. You have an amazingly powerful brand to leverage.

All credit to your predecessor Sir Stuart Rose for his efforts in the past six years. He is a superb retailer despite his critics. But he doesn’t “get” marketing like you do and the problems that need solving are marketing problems not retail ones.

“If you take the next six months to conduct a review of M&S, think about what you can do to not only rival John Lewis and Waitrose, but surpass them”

You proved at Morrisons that you understand marketing to mean more than just making tweaks to advertising and communication creative. You understand that marketing is anything with a bearing on the customer: everything from price, to new and improved product ranges. From the easy navigation of stores to the sustainability message. As for the advertising itself – we’ve seen some cracking work from Rose and marketing chief Steve Sharp. “Your M&S” and some of the food ads were inspired. But there is now a need for new ideas.

Your brand is large enough to accommodate all kinds of new products and services – think big. And, most importantly of all, note that your main rival, the John Lewis Partnership, is a properly joined-up multi-channel operator. Its wedding gift list is linked to its vouchers which in turn are linked to its website which is absolutely in tune with its stores and offline retailing. It sells lots of absolutely everything very well and few customers are ever allowed to slip through the gaps.

It seems like a tough task but that is what you’re aiming at. That is how you will take M&S from being just a retailer, back to being an institution.

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