M&S poaches Tesco's online guru Wade-Gery

City A.M. Reporter
Upmarket retailer Marks & Spencer has poached Laura Wade-Gery from supermarket group Tesco to head its internet business, underscoring new boss Marc Bolland's commitment to online sales growth.

M&S, the UK's biggest clothing retailer, said Wade-Gery is to join as executive director of multi-channel and e-commerce at a time and on terms to be confirmed.

In his strategic review in November, Bolland unveiled plans to double M&S's online sales, which totalled £413m in the year ended March 2010, by 2013-14.

"It's a fantastic appointment – a real statement of intent," said Peel Hunt analyst John Stevenson, though he added a big improvement in M&S's online business might not come until its new platform had been introduced in a couple of years.

M&S, which also sells homewares and upmarket groceries, has been criticised by some analysts for being slow to take advantage of the boom in internet shopping.

Its closest rival in clothing, Next, made £873m of sales at its home shopping business in the year ended January 2010.

Wade-Gery's move will be a blow to Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, which has seen a number of high-profile management departures in recent years.

She had been due to move from her online role at Tesco to become head of non-food in the UK, an area where analysts are keen for improvement after weaker-than-expected sales at Christmas.

However, Peel Hunt's Stevenson said departures were inevitable for a company of Tesco's size and success, and there was plenty of talent within its ranks.

Tesco said Per Bank, currently head of its Hungary business, had been appointed as commercial director for UK clothing, electricals and general merchandise with effect from March 1.

M&S shares closed up one per cent at 359.8p before news of the appointment. Tesco ended down 0.1 per cent at 402.1p.