It hardly needs repeating what a fantastic coup it is for M&S to have landed Archie Norman as its new chairman.
Norman, who will join the retailer on 1 September, has that rare and priceless ability to turn pretty much everything he touches to gold. And if any retailer could benefit from a sprinkling of gold dust it is M&S.
Steve Rowe has made an assertive start to his reign and clearly appreciates the scale of the task in making the battle-scarred retailer fit for purpose in the digital age.
That task now appears slightly more manageable.
Norman has built his reputation as a turnaround king and while M&S is far from a failing business it will surely benefit from his deep well of knowledge and experience in how to effect change within large organisations.
His arrival also bodes well for M&S’s ability to attract the best and brightest talent. Norman’s association with a business has a magnetic effect on ambitious individuals and he has been influential in developing the careers of some of our finest retail leaders, whether at home or overseas in markets such as Australia.
M&S was once revered for its pipeline of talent but more recently it has found itself losing out to rival retailers in its pursuit of the top people. Norman’s mere presence will see the calibre of people wanting to work for M&S increase and it would be no surprise to see some old prodigies linking up again with their mentor in the near future.
The move is also a vote of confidence in Rowe’s leadership and in the recent appointment of Jill McDonald as head of the clothing and home division – a hire Norman will almost certainly have been consulted on.
He will help M&S get its voice heard in the corridors of power too. Norman is impeccably connected not just in the business world but also in political circles. He served as MP for Tunbridge Wells between 1997 and 2005 before being succeeded by Greg Clark. Norman is now lead non-executive board member at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the department headed by none other than Clark himself.
Having contacts within the department that, as much as any other, will shape Britain’s industrial future outside of the EU can only be of benefit to M&S.
Norman is as legendary for his quirks of style – including a penchant for conducting meetings standing up – as he is for his record of success.
Delivering change at M&S must rank among his biggest challenges to-date. But if anyone can, Archie can – the man with the Midas touch.