M&S appoints first design director for womenswear

<p>The company is working to turnaround its flailing clothing business.</p>

Marks and Spencer has appointed its first design director for womenswear, lingerie and beauty.

The company's clothing business has not been performing well, and it is hoped that this latest move will help to turnaround the business category.

Queralt Ferrer has been appointed to the role. She is a former Inditex executive and was hired at M&S two years ago to lead design in the company's Autograph and Limited Edition clothing ranges. She had also taken on responsibility for the Best of British premium collection and its Classics range.

The appointment follows that of Jo Jenkins as director of womenswear, beauty and lingerie. Belinda Ear remains M&S's Style Director. 

A spokesperson for M&S said the firm was pleased to promote Ms Ferrer to the position: "The appointment supports our commitment to improving product style and is in line with our recent move to align accountability for the product areas designed for our female customers."

The spokesperson added that the changes come at a "delicate time for the company". M&S reported its first quarterly increase in underlying sales of clothing and homewares for four years in April. However, sales of general merchandise from stores open at least a year started to decline in the three months to the end of June.

Focus on innovation

As well was the new appointments in the womenswear range, M&S has also said there will be a renewed focus on innovation. Delicatessen counters and bakeries have helped the company's food business remain competitive against discount retailers like Lidl and Aldi - and the company is hoping to simulate that success in its general merchandise category. For example, personal stylists and manicurists were available at the Pantheon store in Oxford Street during London Fashion Week.

Steve Rowe, who became head of non-food business at M&S in July won't just be focusing on fashion in his endeavour to increase sales. After all, the company has had several attempts at this and has seen mixed results at best.

Mr Rowe will also be working to improve availability, ensuring that more of the items customers want to buy are on the rails – and he'll be building on his experience working on the food side of the business, where availability has improved significantly, reports the Financial Times.

In the past five years, M&S has been investing in systems and infrastructure. It is hoped that the improvement of the company's revamped website will also lead to increased revenue.

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