Almost a decade after leaving these shores to work in Australia, Stuart Machin is back in a UK role.
The lucky recipient of his services is South African retail group Steinhoff, which has appointed Machin as chief executive of its UK retail home and housewares division, in effect putting him in charge of running the Bensons for Beds and Harveys businesses.
Machin has been touted for a return to the UK ever since the well-publicised end to his tenure as managing director of Wesfarmers-owned Target last April.
Most recently, he has been linked with a move to M&S following the appointment of his mentor Archie Norman as chairman, and there will be many retailers – and headhunters – disappointed to hear that Machin is no longer on the market.
Despite receiving a flood of job offers internationally over the past year, Machin has quite rightly bided his time and waited for the right role to become available.
In Steinhoff he is joining a great, international business where he will have room to grow as a leader.
Although the immediate task of reviving the fortunes of Bensons and Harveys is not inconsiderable, Machin will surely have had one eye on the potential to move into a higher profile, international role with Steinhoff at some stage in the future.
His new employer, meanwhile, will be well aware of Machin’s leadership qualities and will value his experience of working in different geographies and turning around struggling businesses such as Australian retailer Coles.
Machin built his reputation as one of the golden boys of the UK grocery scene in the 2000s, during which time he held prominent operational roles with Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
His is considered by industry peers as one of the best in his field – renowned for his impressive work-rate and productivity as well as for his loyalty to his team.
Harveys and Bensons are far smaller beasts than the grocery majors and Machin should have the opportunity to go about his rebuilding project quietly, although a retailer of his pedigree cannot expect to fly completely under the radar.
The UK has a reputation for producing some of the world’s best retailers and it’s great to have one of our finest deploying his skills back on home turf.