M&S raids Argos & Asda senior ranks for new retail & property directors

M&S poaches Argos Helen Milford & Asda sWill Smith for new retail & property directors
Helen Milford's new role as M&S retail director was originally expected to be taken by Morrisons director David Lepley, who opted to stay at the grocer after they enticed him with a promotion. (Image: PA)
// M&S adds two new roles to its retail, operations and property leadership team
// Will Smith joins from Asda as M&S’s new property director while Argos’ Helen Milford has been poached for the retail director role
// Both will report to retail, operations and property director Sacha Berendji

Marks & Spencer has raided the senior ranks of both Asda and Sainsbury’s Argos to fill in two new roles within its retail, operations and property leadership team.

Helen Milford has been poached from Sainsbury’s Argos, where she is currently retail director, to join M&S in a similar role.

Meanwhile Will Smith will be joining from Asda, where he is currently vice president of real estate, facilities and market development, to become M&S’s new property director.


M&S said that while it has previously had retail and property directors, Milford’s and Smith’s roles are both “bigger with broader remits” and form part of the retailer’s broader transformation programme.

They will also both report to M&S retail, operations and property director Sacha Berendji.

“Building a store estate that’s fit for the future with industry-leading store operations and empowered colleagues is a key part of our transformation programme,” Berendji said.

“We’re therefore adding two new roles to the retail, operations and property leadership team with Will Smith joining us as our property director and Helen Milford joining as retail director.

“Will Smith’s experience spans property, strategy and general management and he will drive forward our plans to create a store estate fit for the future.

“He will have accountability for every aspect of our property function including our newly formed asset management team and extensive property portfolio.

“Helen has an outstanding track record and she will be supported by two new heads of division with the right breadth and depth of experience to deliver our mission to be the best retail operator with the most engaged and empowered colleagues in UK retail.

“We are building a world-class team across M&S and I’m delighted to welcome Helen and Will to the business as we drive our transformation forward at scale and at pace.”

Before she joined Argos in 2016, Milford worked for Asda and Boots, and worked for the former for more than a decade in a variety of roles.

At M&S, she will lead its 70,000 store colleagues by managing four heads of division: Laura Mitchell (north), Ken Sculley (Ireland), and recently-joined Alex Hanson (central) and Mark Henry (south).

In addition, her new role at M&S was originally expected to be taken by Morrisons executive David Lepley, who had back flipped on the move and decided to stay with the Big 4 grocer after he was enticed with a promotion to group retail director.

Meanwhile, before Smith’s current role with Asda he was managing director of Danish discount grocer Netto.

His new position at M&S will see him look after the whole of its property function, including asset and estate management, acquisitions and disposals, construction delivery, and health and safety.

The dual appointments come shortly after M&S reportedly poached Topshop’s trading director Helen Wilson as its new head of merchandising for womenswear.

M&S has also seen other executives from Arcadia Group, Topshop’s parent company, joining its business in the past year.

Topshop fashion director Maddy Evans joined at the end of last year in a senior buying role, and Arcadia creative director Anthony Cassidy will become M&S’s head of brand creative this spring.

Also in December, M&S hired Paul Babbs to be its new chief supply chain officer and appointed David Surdeau as its interim chief financial officer to replace Humphrey Singer, who stepped down on December 31.

Meanwhile, last November M&S appointed the boss of Tesco’s fashion division, F&F, Richard Price as its new clothing and home managing director, replacing Jill McDonald who was ousted earlier in the year.

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  1. One of the major KPI s for a successful
    Business was and should still be staff turnover
    How many restructures has M&S had in a short period of time?
    How much has the hiring and firing cost?
    Whilst HR may be busy facilitating all this movement and arranging team building sessions for reformed groups of people sales profits and the share price are only going one way – down
    I love M&S and I want it to succeed but please try to remember
    Change is not progress or guaranteed success BUILDING a dedicated team of winners is.

  2. I am afraid the whole M&S recovery strategy is flawed. Visionary and seismic change is needed. Sadly, the current top regime does not ‘get it’. There is still a possible route to turnaround but time is running out.


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