Wade-Gery will unlock M&S’s online potential

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By poaching Laura Wade-Gery from Tesco, M&S has played a blinder, and she could be the key that unlocks the much talked about potential M&S has as a multi-channel retailer and makes it into reality.

Marc Bolland, M&S CEO has been on the hunt for someone to lead the retailer’s online business and has created the multi-channel and e-commerce director role for her.

M&S seems to have taken advantage of the recent reshuffles within the Tesco UK board, which saw Wade-Gery move from heading up Tesco.com to commercial director for its clothing, electronics and merchandise.

While at Tesco she would be heading up its non-food business, at M&S, there is the opportunity to develop a much smaller online business into something huge.

It’s reported that M&S will have to buy Wade-Gery out of her existing Tesco contract, so she could prove to be an expensive investment, but if M&S share price yesterday is anything to go by, a good investment.

M&S shares increased 3% yesterday to 373.3p, on the back of the announcement of her appointment showing that industry and analysts alike have faith in her capabilities.

M&S has designs to grow its online sales to £800-£1bn by 2013/14. Last year, its online sales totalled £413m, so Wade-Gery’s job is to double its online sales within three years.

A lofty challenge but one that is well within Wade-Gery’s reach.

Bolland announced towards the end of last year that the retailer’s partnership with Amazon, which currently hosts its online platform, will come to an end in 2013. This gives the retailer, and now Wade-Gery, free reign to develop a dedicated online and multi-channel platform that meets its current and future needs.

Where M&S’s online proposition falls down at the moment is its food business. What’s currently available is tailored towards options to help cater small events, gift food and wine, but nothing that represents its everyday eating ranges.

If Wade-Gery can avoid the pitfalls and challenges of many loss-making online grocery operations and find a way for M&S to offer a credible online food and grocery service that works for it, and its customers, her high price tag will have been worth it.

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