Published on March 24th, 2014 | by Nigel Peters0
Is Mothercare In Good Hands?
Nigel Peters shares an informed view of Mothercare’s new interim CEO appointment Mark Newton-Jones. Highlighting his task ahead, he asks poignant questions about the appointment, and whether Newton-Jones has the authority he needs to turn around the fortunes of this household name.
The appointment of Mark Newton-Jones recently as the interim CEO of Mothercare was an interesting indictment of bringing in key and proven skills, plus strong leadership, rather than a consultancy approach to effect change. With the recent poor Christmas results for the UK division, amidst an already complex and painful restructure, the departure of Mothercare’s previous CEO Simon Calver may not have come as a surprise to many. But can it be turned around by this interim CEO appointment?
Mothercare - Failed to Keep Pace with the Competition
The parenting giant, with over 1000 stores around the world, has clearly failed in the UK in the same way that many other retailers have done and simply not kept up with its competitors both in the High Street and online. The digital revolution may yet claim another victim but how effective can Newton-Jones be? Especially given the circumstances with which the interim CEO has been brought in?
Traditional Interim CEO
The press statement from the Chairman indicates very clearly that Newton-Jones’ appointment is very much a temporary one, while they search for a permanent CEO – the phrase “a safe pair of hands” springs to mind. This more traditional interim model is a departure from the change and transformation evolution we have seen evolving in the industry over the last few years, and is clearly more akin to crisis management. Limiting such an experienced professional in this way (he is a former Next and Shop Direct executive) is a risky strategy that may not pay off.
Newton-Jones: Outside the Boardroom
The other startling thing about this announcement is his notable non appointment to the Board. Is this because Mothercare is so badly broken he does not wish for the executive tag as it is on a precipice – or is this exclusion coming from the Mothercare Board themselves? Either way, the result for interim CEO Newton-Jones, and any c-suite interim at this level, is that if he is not empowered by the company, he will be unable to drive the ruthless and effective change required to rescue this excellent, household name.
For the Sake of Legality?
This brings us back to the classic interim CEO role. Appointing in this way does meet the business tests of HMRC for him to operate in the transformational space. Getting the business back on its feet and enabling a smooth handover to the new guard (while moving from transformation director to mentor and coach to see through the lasting change), may indeed be order of the day. But Mothercare need to be aware that it won’t be quick, or if it is, it will be bloody.
Do you feel Newton-Jones has everything he needs to make a positive, lasting change at Mothercare? Or are his hands too tightly tied? Please leave your opinion below.