Archie Norman will work alongside CEO Steve Rowe for the British label that is trying to refind its purpos

Archie Norman will work alongside CEO Steve Rowe for the British label that is trying to refind its purpos

UK retail group Marks & Spencer has made what one analyst describes as a "formidable appointment" with the hiring of Archie Norman as its new chairman, replacing the outgoing Robert Swannell.

Norman is a former chief executive and chairman of supermarket retailer Asda, and will work alongside M&S CEO Steve Rowe for the British label that is trying to re-find its purpose and relevance to the British shopper to profitable effect.

"Few in the City and the retail channel do not know Norman," says ShoreCap analyst Clive Black. His career "has seen him hold a senior role at [retailer] Kingfisher but most notably alongside Allan Leighton, lead one of the greatest turnarounds in British commercial history at Asda before it was sold to Wal-Mart.

"In addition to his Asda days though he also has gained insight and experience as a chairman and adviser at Energis, Hobbycraft, ITV and Lazards."

Norman will take up the role from 1 September, at which time Swannell will retire from the board.

"I am delighted that Archie, with his deep, relevant experience, is to be M&S's next chairman," Swannell said. "It has been a real privilege to have served as chairman and to have worked with so many exceptional people who are so passionate about this great business. With the appointment of Steve Rowe in 2016, I am confident that we have an excellent team, well-equipped to grow and strengthen the business."

The announcement follows this week's appointment of Jill McDonald as the group's new managing director for clothing, home and beauty.

Marks & Spencer's strategy to focus on value and quality, rather than "reactionary and desperate" discounting, paid off in its third-quarter with the UK retailer's clothing division recording an uplift in sales for just the second time in six years.

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