The MT Interview: Stuart Rose

His company is the highest riser in MT's Most Admired poll, but Marks & Spencer's CEO won't call it a turnaround - he knows the frailty of any recovery. The sparkling figures, he says, have been achieved by a sound team rigorously applying old tenets of retailing.

by Chris Blackhurst

Why did they take the head office of Marks & Spencer and dump it in one of the most soulless parts of London it's possible to find? Of course, there was plenty wrong with the old Baker Street HQ: overcrowded, rambling, obsolete, resembling more a branch of Whitehall than the powerbase of an aggressive, up-to-the-minute retailer. But this - I think, looking at the glass-and-steel complex that has replaced it - is monstrous.

It's my first visit to Paddington Basin (how seductive that sounds) since the move. It's hard by an arterial road thundering out of London. It's an unremittingly dull landscape. This is an office block stuck in the middle of nowhere. Shops and the nearest M&S branch are at Edgware Road, a short walk away. Oxford Street and Marble Arch, where the group has its flagship store, it is not.It's so cut off that management are running free shuttles back to civilisation.

I check in, grab myself an M&S coffee from the machine and plonk myself down. I have to report it's one of the finest cups of coffee I've ever had in a corporate tower (M&S can be relied on to do some things extremely well). As I wait for Stuart Rose, the group's chief executive, to arrive, I realise that despite the surroundings, there is a real buzz. 'Tell him I'll do three,' barks a tieless man into a mobile. A woman paces up and down nervously, possibly here for a job interview. Some young suppliers enthusiastically check on their samples.

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