Steve Rowe, the new boss of Marks & Spencer, is an M&S lifer who has been with the company for more than 26 years and made his name as the head of its highly successful food division.
Food has been the only bright spot at the retailer, whereas its main clothing division has struggled for years as customers deserted womenswear, leading to three years of falling profits.
Rowe, 48, became the favourite internal candidate to succeed Marc Bolland after taking over from John Dixon as head of the clothing and homewares business last July – not long after the division posted its first sales rise in four years. Dixon, who had been with M&S for nearly 30 years, had been tipped as a top contender to replace Bolland and there was speculation that he left because Rowe had become a more likely future successor.
Rowe, a Millwall fan, began his retail career aged 15 as a Saturday boy at M&S’s Croydon store in south London, but joined Topshop as a trainee when he left school at 18. Four years later he was a store manager but defected to join M&S because he thought it offered a better career path – following in his father’s footsteps, who was a director of M&S until 2000.
Rowe has worked across the company in store management, menswear and furniture and held a number of senior positions including director of retail and e-commerce. He joined the board in 2012 when he became head of the food division.
Despite fierce competition from discount grocers Aldi and Lidl, he kept the food division growing for 25 consecutive quarters on a like-for-like basis. He bagged the biggest bonus paid to M&S executives last year after the retailer posted its first profits rise in four years.
This article was written by Julia Kollewe, for theguardian.com on Thursday 7th January 2016 11.59 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010