Mr. John Dixon has been Chief Executive Officer of David Jones Limited at Woolworths Holdings Limited since January 2016. Mr. Dixon served as an Executive Director of General Merchandise at Marks & Spencer Group plc from October 1, 2012 to July 2015, and also served as Member of its Management Board. Mr. Dixon served as an Executive Director of Food of Marks & Spencer Group plc since September 2009 and its Head of Retail since July 2012. Mr. Dixon served as a Director of M&S Direct at Marks & Spencer Group plc., and also served as its Director of Food since July 2008 and as Director of e-Commerce. Mr. Dixon served as an Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive of Stuart Rose since 2004. He served as an Executive where he headed up one of the three Food trading divisions comprising the fresh food categories since 2002. Mr. Dixon started his Marks and Spencer career in UK store management before moving to Paris for three years where he held a variety of commercial management roles in European stores and the Paris Head Office. Mr. Dixon joined UK Head Office in 1992 as a Food buyer in Prepared Foods, followed by Fresh Produce and Bakery before progressing to Category Manager of Fresh Produce. Mr. Dixon served as an Executive Director at Marks & Spencer Group plc from September 09, 2009 to July 2015.
John Dixon was until recently tipped as a top contender to replace the group chief executive, Marc Bolland. Dixon will be replaced as head of general merchandise by Steve Rowe, who was the head of food.
M&S revealed last week at its annual general meeting that its clothing and homeware sales had slipped again in the last three months.
In April, Dixon’s division unveiled its first rise in clothing sales for four years. Bolland, said sales of womenswear, menswear, childrenswear and home furnishings had all increased as shoppers perceived an improvement in style and quality at the chain.
But just a few weeks later, as Bolland unveiled the chain’s annual profits, he described the poor performance of Dixon’s non-food business during the previous 12 months as “not good enough”.
At the AGM, Bolland had to unveil a new decline in sales, bringing what some analysts had believed was a long-awaited reversal in the retailer’s fashion fortunes to an abrupt halt. And the decline could have been far worse but for buoyant sales online. Nick Bubb, a retail analyst, estimated that had it not been for the online boost, the underlying sales decline would have been up to 5%.
The new finance director, Helen Weir, and the store’s online boss, Laura Wade-Gery, are also said to be keen to take the top job. Dixon, who is estimated by Bloomberg to be earning £1m a year, has run the clothing and homewares business since 2012, when Kate Bostock left the post after a slump in sales. He had previously achieved a turnaround in the food business.
Dixon, whose father also worked for M&S, started on the bottom rung of the retailer’s business, moving on to become a food buyer.
By 2004 he had caught the eye of the then chief executive Stuart Rose, and was promoted to become his executive assistant. Dixon joined the board in September 2009 as head of food.
There has been recent speculation that Bolland is preparing to move on. He was previously chief executive of Morrisons and before that one of the most senior executives at Heineken.
At the recent shareholders’ meeting he faced a verbal onslaught from shareholders including Muriel Conway, who spent 25 years designing womenswear for M&S until the late 1990s. She said: “I could weep at what I see in stores today. Where’s the originality, flair, newness and good taste? The necklines are too low and the polos too high.”
In a statement on Thursday, Bolland thanked Dixon “for his contribution to the business” and said he was “delighted to appoint Steve [Rowe] to the role of executive director, general merchandise.”
Dixon said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed many happy and successful years at M&S. I now have the opportunity to become a chief executive and have therefore resigned from this great company.”
Dixon, whose father also worked at M&S, said: “I’m very excited to be taking on this role as CEO of David Jones. It’s a substantial business in its own right and lies at the heart of Australian society … I’m thoroughly looking forward to the challenge and my family and I are looking forward to living in Sydney. It’s a perfect fit for me.”
Dixon came to prominence at M&S after he caught the eye of Stuart Rose, the former chief executive, and became his executive assistant in 2004. He was promoted to M&S’s board as director of food five years later. After leading a successful turnaround of the food operations he moved to general merchandise.
His surprise departure came amid speculation that he had become frustrated with M&S after Steve Rowe, an internal rival, replaced him as the man viewed as most likely succeed Marc Bolland as chief executive. Rowe has since taken over Dixon’s job as head of clothing and homewares. There have been persistent rumours that Bolland is preparing to depart soon.
Ian Moir, chief executive of David Jones’s South African parent company, Woolworths Holdings, said: “John is a world-class retailer who brings with him a powerful combination of international food and fashion expertise supported by large scale retail systems and management experience.
“We have known John for many years through our close relationship with M&S and know him to be an inspiring and resilient leader who has traded successfully through the most difficult and competitive of conditions in the UK.”
His appointment is thought to be linked to David Jones’s plans to launch an up market food business.
Dixon joins a string of UK retail executives who have moved to Australia. Archie Norman kicked off the turnaround of Coles, the Australian supermarket business, where he brought in former Asda and Halfords executive Ian McLeod as managing director.
McLeod moved up to join the board of Coles’s parent company, Wesfarmers, before leaving to join the US supermarket chain Bi-Lo in January.
Former New Look, Littlewoods and Matalan boss Alistair McGeorge was hired to lead the Big W department store chain, but departed last month after less than a year in the role.