A British ad veteran is secretly helping steer David Jones' marketing

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 30 November 2016
Steve Sharp

A British advertising and marketing veteran is secretly helping steer David Jones' marketing from the UK, AdNews can reveal.

Steve Sharp, who ran marketing at British retailer Marks & Spencer for 10 years, was brought on board six months ago as a consultant. He was appointed by DJs CEO John Dixon, who took on the role in January and spent 25 years at the British retailer.

Sharp is credited with turning around the British retailer's marketing during his decade-long tenure as marketing director. He introduced the now iconic Your M&S tagline and brought a raft of celebrities on board as the retailer underwent a major transformation.

He retired in 2013 and according to UK trade site Campaign, he did a stint consulting for WPP in 2014.

Sharp is understood to fly into Australia every three months to work on certain operations, but is “anonymously” helping with marketing from the UK.

This is understood to be what prompted the clearing of the decks in David Jones' marketing team which saw senior figures Victoria Doidge, former GM of marketing and David Robinson, former group executive of marketing, financial services and customer insights, exit suddenly in May. Merchandise lead, Donna Player, also departed.

Their departures came just six months after Doidge and Robinson had launched the It's In You brand campaign as part of the transformation of the brand.

Sharp is a notoriously shy marketer, preferring to be behind the scenes than in the headlines. David Jones is publicly saying chief operating officer David Thomas, former COO and marketer at sister retailer Country Road, is managing the marketing division. Thomas, who has a dual role as COO and 'acting group executive of marketing', is working very closely with consultant Sharp.

At the time, CEO John Dixon said the changes were part of David Jones' transformation strategy and would deliver “a world - class leadership team”.

Dixon was appointed David Jones CEO in September 2015 is a former M&S CEO and worked closely with Sharp.

Dixon has begun making moves that signal the strategy is to replicate much of what was in place at M&S. This includes a move towards premium food and the luxury market, as well as improving its presence in online and loyalty.

David Jones' parent group, South African retailer Woolworths (no connection to Australian Woolworths), has strong ties with M&S in the UK. Its former CEO Stuart Rose is a director of the South African Group and it has a long-term food partnership, which sees the South African retailer selling M&S food ranges under its own brand. A similar move is also expected here.

A David Jones spokesperson said: "As a business we use a range of consultants from time to time."


Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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