Marks & Spencer has hired top name retailers from outside the company to head two of its key departments.
 
Managing director of Wal-Mart Hypermarkets UK, Justin King, 39, is the new business unit director of foods, which accounts for 40 per cent of M&S's annual sales.
 
Meanwhile, managing director of Liberty, Michele Jobling, 40, is to join M&S as business unit director of childrenswear.
 
Both are from outside the M&S organisation, a move which was rare before the arrival of current chairman Luc Vandevelde.
 
Mr Vandevelde said:"Our aim has been to recruit the highest calibre candidates for these two key positions. We are delighted to increase the breadth of experience within the UK retail business, and to provide additional expertise to Roger Holmes when he joins in January as managing director, UK retail. 
 
"Justin King and Michele Jobling are both dynamic, highly experienced individuals with strong retail backgrounds which will be particularly relevant to our future progress. We look forward to their joining M&S at this important time."
 
Both new recruits have extensive retailing experience. Michele Jobling has 18 years' retailing experience with companies such as B&Q, Sainsbury and Tesco. As Managing Director of Liberty, she was responsible for a return to growth of the Liberty brand after ten years in decline.
 
She introduced the Liberty Ready-to-Wear collection at London Fashion Week and her successful sale of Liberty to the MWB group doubled shareholder value.
 
Justin King's experience spans both retail and manufacturing. He spent his early career working in premium brands such as the Mars Corporation and Pepsi-Cola International and in the early 1990s he led the launch and development of the Haagen-Dazs icecream brand in the UK.
 
He joined the Asda management team in 1993 in the early stages of the retailer's recovery programme. As Managing Director of Asda's Hypermarket division, he was responsible for Asda's largest stores as well as the development of the new Asda/Wal-Mart supercentres.
 
Michele Jobling joins M&S on Monday (December 11th). The starting date for Justin King is yet to be announced.
 
A spokesman said: "Michele's retail experience and consumer focus will strengthen and enable Marks & Spencer to further develop the Childrenswear Business Unit.
 
"Justin's strong commercial ability, coupled with his proven track record in achieving results, will be especially relevant to the continuing improvement of our food business."