Oct 25, 2017
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M&S clothing boss Jenkins in surprise departure, to be White Stuff CEO

Oct 25, 2017

M&S’s plans for its clothing business are due for a shake-up with news that its well-respected clothing and beauty head Jo Jenkins is leaving. But mid-market chain White Stuff should be pleased as she’s set to take up the vacant CEO  role at the retailer.

Jo Jenkins/M&S

M&S hadn’t said much about the news as we published but both it and White Stuff did confirm it following media reports Wednesday morning. 

So, Jenkins, who has only been director of clothing and beauty for a few months, is definitely leaving. Her departure comes just as Jill McDonald, the ex-Halfords CEO, joins as managing director for clothing, home and beauty. There have been suggestions that Jenkins was disappointed not to get that role herself.

Her exit will leave a gaping hole in CEO Steve Rowe’s senior team for what is a key merchandise area at M&S and one that is still in a prolonged turnaround phase.

An M&S spokesperson did wish her well: "We're delighted for Jo - she's been a real talent here at M&S, which is reflected in the progress she has made both professionally and for the business. Becoming CEO at a company like White Stuff is a natural next step for her. We wish her all the very best with her new role.”

White Stuff had announced back in July that its CEO Jeremy Seigal would leave after four years in charge with his departure date set to be December 31 or earlier if a replacement was found in time.

But it’s currently unclear whether that december 31 date would change. On Wednesday, White Stuff said Jenkins will join by next spring “at the latest.” 

What’s her appeal for White Stuff? The company said she has “well-established retail credentials, gained in the senior executive roles she has held in M&S and Next. Her broad-based commercial background has been developed in multi-site fashion retail businesses and she brings a strong focus on the customer.”

White Stuff chairman Debbie Hewitt added:  “She is a talented retailer who brings great customer insight, relevant product knowledge and strong store operations experience and she has a track record of developing effective supply chain relationships. She is recognised for leading with a strong brand vision and for bringing a positive customer ethos to the core of the businesses that she has worked with. 

“Her experience will enable her to work with our team to strengthen our brand credentials and to develop the business into new areas.”

In August White Stuff reported pre-tax profits significantly lower (down to £5.9 million from £13 million in the year to April 29), although store and online sales rose strongly. 

The company blamed issues such as the UK's 'living wage', pension costs and exchange rates, plus costs linked to store openings and higher marketing investment.

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