Up close with Marc Bolland

From the UK’s high street to the world’s shopping mall - globalising Britain’s most sustainable retailer.


Unlike his predecessor, Sir Stuart Rose, Bolland does not make many public appearances. He wants to put product first, M&S second, and himself third. He is not targeting any one customer but aims to create a concept where grandmother and granddaughter can have a fantastic shopping experience together. Bolland is eager to get customers sampling different parts of the store – how can he get his lingerie customer to buy a pair of shoes?

Bolland praised his predecessor’s Plan A legacy, instrumental in making the M&S brand synonymous with trust. He will continue to drive this forward. Bolland recognises the struggle to shift people away from the materialistic role models of today and get emotional buy-in to the “unsexy” world of sustainability. But he is building the right team to tackle it, with Muhammad Yunus joining the advisory board.

M&S’s international growth will be easiest in countries where the company has brand recognition, Commonwealth countries like India to which he can bring the ‘Best of Britain’, as well as those with British “aspirations” like Russia and the Gulf states. The biggest challenge is making it work in other markets like China.

Interviews by Tristan Vanhegan, Co-President of the Retail & Luxury Goods Club, and Michael Blowfield, Teaching Fellow, were followed by lively Q&A. Bolland praised Inditex as the best physical retailer in the world, and ASOS as the best online. He sees himself as more a “citizen of the world” than Dutch, and thanks a simple move to the UK to his early British influences: Dad’s Army, Fawlty Towers and Tommy Cooper.

So what’s next for Bolland? Who knows for the man who views life as an “open journey”.

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