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M&S names cost-cutter Alan Stewart as finance chief

By
Reuters
Published
today Aug 3, 2010
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LONDON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Marks & Spencer (MKS.L), Britain's biggest clothing retailer, has named Alan Stewart, a former finance director at stationer WH Smith (SMWH.L) with a reputation for cutting costs, as its new finance chief.

Marks & Spencer
Alan Stewart
Stewart, 50, will be the right hand man to new chief executive Marc Bolland, who joined in May from grocer Wm Morrison (MRW.L) and is due to outline his long-term strategy for the 126-year-old group in November.

Marks & Spencer (M&S) had a torrid recession, hit by competition from discount clothing chains like Primark (ABF.L), and has admitted it was also too slow to adapt its upmarket food business to the more straitened economic times.

It has recently fought back, helped by new clothing ranges such as Indigo and cheaper "wise buys" in food. But many analysts think it needs to go further, and faster, in its plans to become a more streamlined and efficient business.

"Known as a 'cost-cutting supremo' even prior to his time at WH Smith, Stewart is a sharp character who might prove to be the gross margin and cash-conscious foil to Bolland's marketing prowess," said Execution Noble analyst Caroline Gulliver.

Stewart is currently finance director of aircraft leasing company AWAS, and will join M&S at the end of October, the firm said on Tuesday.

He worked at WH Smith from 2005-8, helping to implement the recovery plan of Chief Executive Kate Swann and overseeing a new doubling in pretax profit.

"Alan has an impressive track record and will be joining us with extensive experience of retail and other highly competitive industries including travel and banking," Bolland said.

Stewart also spent seven years at leisure group Thomas Cook (TCG.L) and, before that, nine years as an investment banker at HSBC (HSBA.L).

He replaces Ian Dyson, who missed out on the top job and is leaving to be chief executive of pubs group Punch (PUB.L).

At 0850 GMT, M&S shares were down 1.1 percent at 355.1 pence, lagging a 0.4 percent decline on the UK's benchmark FTSE-100 index FTSE.

(Editing by Simon Jessop and Jon Loades-Carter)

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