The outgoing chief executive of Dixons Carphone’s British operations is in talks to join the board of Marks & Spencer (M&S) as its chairman tries to bolster a board criticised for its dearth of retail expertise.
Sky News has learnt that Katie Bickerstaffe, who recently announced her intention to leave the electrical goods chain, is close to an agreement to become a non-executive director at M&S.
Sources said her appointment was likely to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
It forms part of a planned overhaul of M&S’s board by Archie Norman, the company’s new chairman, who is keen for its crop of non-executives to have more direct experience of a fast-changing retail industry.
One insider added that he also wanted more women on its board following the recent exit of chief financial officer Helen Weir.
M&S has just one female non-executive – Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain – and a female company secretary on a board that will be nine-strong when Humphrey Singer, Ms Weir’s replacement, arrives from Dixons Carphone later this year.
Ms Bickerstaffe is leaving Dixons Carphone to run the new energy supplier that will be formed from the merger of SSE and npower, assuming it is cleared by competition regulators.
The news of Ms Bickerstaffe’s potential appointment to the M&S board comes days before the company reports what City analysts expect to be a second consecutive decline in full-year profits.
Like rivals, M&S is facing the triple headwinds of declining consumer confidence, the inexorable shift towards online shopping and rising costs associated with its high street business.
Analysts are predicting that the company will unveil a pre-tax profit of £573m, a far cry from the £1bn it last reported less than a decade ago.
Its food business, previously a driver of growth for the group, has started to flag, and there are few signs so far that Steve Rowe, its chief executive, has found a solution to the perennial challenge of turbo-charging its general merchandise division.
Shareholders are also anticipating that Mr Rowe will announce further store closures alongside the results.
The Times reported on Saturday that a disappointing set of annual figures could push it closer to demotion from the blue-chip FTSE-100 index for the first time.
M&S declined to comment on its talks with Ms Bickerstaffe.