M&S's interiors guru told he is no longer part of the furniture

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Vittorio Radice, the man who transformed Selfridges into one of the country's most fashionable retailers, yesterday became the latest victim of the management cull at Marks & Spencer that has already claimed the scalps of its chairman and chief executive.

Vittorio Radice, the man who transformed Selfridges into one of the country's most fashionable retailers, yesterday became the latest victim of the management cull at Marks & Spencer that has already claimed the scalps of its chairman and chief executive.

He was ousted by Stuart Rose, the former Arcadia boss who was parachuted in to replace Roger Holmes as chief executive last week to defend M&S from the threat of a potential takeover bid from Philip Green, the Bhs and Top Shop owner. Mr Radice, who was lured to M&S 15 months ago on a £1.7m package to launch its assault on the home furnishings market, stands to receive some £900,000 in compensation.

His departure will raise big question marks about the viability of Lifestore, the funky furniture store that M&S opened in Gateshead in February. The company admitted last month that sales at the store, which cost £14m to kit out, were missing targets.

Mr Radice, who was recently promoted to head M&S's £4bn clothing business, said that the change of management meant the company "no longer needed my skills".

As the group's stores director, he had also been asked to inject some Selfridges-style glamour into M&S's jaded store estate.

Mr Radice said: "The priorities of the business are different from when I joined. Now, it's about getting the core business up and running."

He admitted that he had been surprised by how quickly M&S, renowned for its bureaucratic culture, had acted. "You can imagine the news is not unusual [but] I didn't expect the change at the top to be so sudden. Once that happened you could see that priorities would shift."

Although rival retailers describe Mr Radice, who was paid an annual salary of £485,000, as hugely talented, the flamboyant Italian infuriated many within M&S during his short time there. Most notably, he criticised the group for lacking Continental flair, saying that it spent too much time designing clothes for middle-aged, middle-class women in market towns - exactly the target market that Mr Rose is now seeking to win back.

Mr Rose said that he was reviewing the future of Lifestore, which Mr Radice had hoped to turn into a 20-strong chain. "We will pull out the good lessons and dump the bad lessons," Mr Rose said.

Although both men separately insisted the decision to sack Mr Radice was "mutual and amicable", Mr Rose added: "I didn't feel that Vittorio was a square peg in a square hole ... There was not a meeting of minds."

M&S is due to open its second Lifestore in London's Kingston upon Thames in August. A company spokeswoman said that "almost all" the staff had already been hired.

The son of a furniture retailer from Lake Como, Mr Radice turned his back on the family business when he opted to study agriculture at university, but it was in furniture that he made his name. As managing director of Habitat in the early 1990s he rescued the group from its "Habicrap" image. At Selfridges he coined the notion of "retail theatre", viewing shopping as entertainment on a par with watching football or a film.

As well as getting rid of Mr Radice, Mr Rose finalised his top team. He will personally seek to revive M&S's troubled womenswear business, while his right-hand man, Charles Wilson, will look after its property, IT and supply chain. Steven Sharp, who completes the Rose trinity, will be responsible for marketing, store development and design.

Mr Rose also said that he would recruit someone to head the retailer's struggling food arm, which has gone downhill since Maurice Helfgott, the former menswear boss, was promoted to run it. From Friday, Mr Helfgott will return to his old role, while stepping into Mr Radice's shoes as executive director of the home division. Childrenswear, which after womenswear is M&S's main problem area, will also be run by Mr Helfgott.

Mr Rose said yesterday he had not spoken to Mr Green recently and was "trying to avoid him". He joked that he was "walking around in dark glasses and a moustache".

Mr Green earlier this week telephoned Mr Rose to sing "if you go down to the woods today, you'd better go in disguise" and other lines from "Teddy Bears' Picnic".

Comments