Troubled retailer Marks & Spencer has poached one of the City’s highest profile businesswomen from rival John Lewis to become its new finance director.
Helen Weir, the former Lloyds Banking Group executive, will replace Alan Stewart next year after he quit M&S to join the beleaguered supermarket chain Tesco three months earlier than expected in September.
She will be handed the task of restoring the company’s fortunes alongside M&S’s chief executive Marc Bolland, who has been under pressure from investors in recent months, making her one of the favourites to replace him if he is sacked.
Mr Bolland said: “Helen brings a wealth of relevant financial, retail and consumer experience. We look forward to her joining the M&S team.”
Ms Weir was head of Lloyds’ retail banking division but left shortly after missing out on the top job to Antonio Horta-Osorio in 2011.
She built her reputation during a three-year stint at DIY-group Kingfisher, where she famously received a £334,000 relocation allowance to cover a 40-mile move from a village in Hampshire to a new house in Buckinghamshire.
At M&S she will get a £590,000 salary and a one-off payment of £188,500 to compensate for lost pension benefits.
“M&S is one of the UK’s great brands. This is an exciting time to be joining the company and I am delighted to be part of the team,” she said.
Mr Bolland bought himself more time earlier this month when M&S started showing signs of improvement in its much-maligned womenswear division. Although the retailer recorded a 13th consecutive quarterly fall in sales in its general merchandise business, which includes clothing, womenswear sales rose 1.3 per cent in the five months to the end of August.
Pre-tax profits fell 0.4 per cent to £279.4m in the period, while underlying profits jumped 2.3 per cent to £267.6m, better than City analysts were expecting. Mr Bolland said the improvement was mainly down to cost cutting in its supply chain.
The company recently dropped celebrities for its 2014 Christmas advertisement and replaced them with two fairies. Set to Julie London’s version of “Fly Me to the Moon”, the advert follows Magic and Sparkle as they clock in for work at the Fairy Factory before flying across the country to spread some Christmas spirit.
Shares in the company closed up 4p at 473p, having risen by about 10 per cent so far this year.Reuse content