M&S hires Sainsbury's strategist for food role

Marks and Spencer has raided Sainsbury's to appoint Miranda Pode to the role of head of food marketing, as the retail giant fights for what analysts predict will be a make-or-break Christmas.

M&S, which has hailed the growth of its food division as one of its strongest assets in recent years, has hired Pode after Helen Buck, the previous head of food marketing, took up the new post of head of marketing for clothing in the autumn (Marketing, September 25).

Pode, who was head of strategy in Sainsbury's marketing division, will join M&S in January. She has also held roles at Sainsbury's as general manager of its petrol business and project manager of the ill-fated partnership between Sainsbury's and Boots.

Pode will report to Maurice Helfgott, director of M&S's food business unit, who took on the job last month after Justin King was appointed group chief executive of Sainsbury's. Pode will also report indirectly to director of marketing and e-commerce Alice Avis.

Helfgott, previously the company's director of menswear, will take charge of the development of M&S's food business as the company faces growing pressure in areas such as womenswear and childrenswear.

The firm is also investing heavily in its Life homeware stores, the first of which opens next year.

Analysts believe that M&S, along with most major retailers, is facing a tough Christmas, with many companies opting to discount products earlier than usual.

However, most expect the reputation for quality of M&S's food will ensure the division trades successfully.

The growth of the food business unit at M&S has largely been attributed to improved margins, driven by less wastage and lower promotional expenditure, as well as the performance of the Simply Food retail format, which is being rapidly rolled out across the UK.

Advertising for M&S's food offer has focused on the quality of the product range, taking the fight to upmarket rivals, such as Waitrose.

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