Marks & Spencer executive to help revitalise Target

'It is still unclear what role Ms Ridley Whittle might have.'

Target's new chief executive, Stuart Machin, has moved to bolster the struggling retailer's senior management ranks, poaching an executive from the British store Marks & Spencer.

It has been reported in the British press that a M&S executive, Gillian Ridley Whittle, has quit her high-profile role at the famous retailer.

She is expected to move to Australia to take up a senior role with Target, which is owned by Perth-based conglomerate Wesfarmers.

Target declined to comment. But M&S has publicly acknowledged that Ms Ridley Whittle resigned to take up a new role with the Australian company, and wished her well.

Ms Ridley Whittle had run the lingerie department temporarily for M&S since April, and recently took up a strategic role in womenswear for the British chain.

It is believed that Ms Ridley Whittle is yet to sign a contract with Target but is likely to do so soon, and will take a leading role in turning around the business, which in fiscal 2013 posted an earnings slump of 44.3 per cent to $136 million as sales went backwards by 2.1 per cent to $3.66 billion.Mr Machin was appointed to lead Target in April, and was the underperforming retailer's third boss in less than two years.

He acted quickly to resuscitate the merchandise and apparel group, announcing in June the loss of 20 per cent of its workforce, or 260 jobs.

He is expected to greatly rationalise the company's supply chain and logistics infrastructure as well as revitalise its in-store offering.

Mr Machin was formerly Coles' store development and operations director and part of a tight-knit team of mostly British executives that have revived the supermarket's fortunes since Wesfarmers bought it six years ago.

At Wesfarmers' full-year results presentation in August, Mr Machin agreed with one analyst who described Target's business model as "broken", with a return to sales and pre-tax earnings momentum as much as three years away.

Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder and Target said later they did not believe the retailer was "broken", with eight senior executives appointed to help revive the company's fortunes. It is still unclear what role Ms Ridley Whittle might have within Target. But the retailer has upped its promotion of its women's fashion offering, recently launching a new marketing blitz using British fashionista Gok Wan to showcase its women's range.

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