M&S fills gap in childrenswear department from outside

Marks & Spencer yesterday ended a 10-month search for a new head for its troubled childrenswear department, poaching a top Gap executive.

The retailer, which has lost market share in the competitive kids clothing sector, said Anthony Thompson would replace Michele Jobling, who was sacked last October after failing to revive sales.

The appointment marks a return to the UK high street giant for Mr Thompson, 39, who began his career as a graduate trainee with M&S in 1984. He will join the retailer from Gap, where he is the US company's senior vice president for Europe. Analysts said Mr Thompson would have his work cut out to compete with the likes off Next, Matalan, Asda's George and Woolworths' Ladybird ranges.

The UK company saw its share of the childrenswear market sink to 5.2 per cent in the year to July, down from 6.1 per cent the previous year. Three years ago, M&S controlled 8 per cent of the children's clothing sector.

"It sounds like he has got good credentials but I think it will be very difficult for M&S to claw back market-share losses," one retail analyst said. "They are still a long way off the mark in terms of price - their clothes can be more than double those elsewhere," the analyst added.

Mr Thompson, who is on a six-months notice period at the US retailer, said childrenswear has a "huge amount of potential". He will report to David Norgrove, the company's executive director for clothing, and sit on the group operating committee. No salary details were available, an M&S spokeswoman said.

Sales of childrenswear, M&S's biggest problem area, fell 10 per cent last year, despite a major initiative to revive sales of boys' clothing, sponsored by David Beckham. Although the "DB07" range, aimed at boys aged 4 to 11 years, has been a big hit, distribution problems initially hampered sales. Childrenswear accounts for about 10 per cent of M&S's clothing sales and 5 per cent of group sales.

Mr Thompson spent 11 years at M&S before a brief stint as a management consultant. He ran Blackwells, the publishing business for two years, before joining Gap in 2000. Mr Norgrove said the new childrenswear director would bring M&S "good general management experience, with strong strategic planning skills and a track record of building businesses". At Gap, Mr Thompson was responsible for 295 stores across the UK, France and Germany.

Richard Hymen, chairman of the Verdict retail consultancy, said Mr Thompson had helped to revive European sales for the US group despite a difficult backdrop. "Gap lost its focus after having walked on water for decades - a bit M&S-like - but he's done a good job for them," he said. "Kidswear, around 40 per cent of Gap's sales in Britain, Germany and France, has been Gap's strongest performer throughout," Mr Hymen added.

In its trading update last month, M&S admitted childrenswear remained a concern but said its "Back to School" ranges were selling well. Its shares slipped 0.5p to 304.5p.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test