Waitrose food chief joins rivals M&S – Fishupdate.com

Waitrose food chief joins rivals M&S Published:  25 April, 2007

Steve Esom

THE man who helped the supermarket group Waitrose become one of Britain’s top fresh seafood retailers has joined rivals Marks & Spencer.

Steve Esom has resigned as managing director of the John Lewis owned store chain to head up M&S food division – a move which is certain to arouse much intrigue in the fish processing business. A number of Humber and Scottish seafood processors supply both store chains.

The move is seen as part of a reshuffle by M&S chief executive Stuart Rose who is keen to bring some new blood into the company. The rise of the Waitrose chain as a high quality upmarket food retailer has impressed rivals. Earlier this year Waitrose said that seafood sales were rising faster than other protein food such as poultry.

It is reported that Mr Esom – who has previously been linked to Marks & Spencer – is said to have become disillusioned after failing to be named as head of John Lewis.

Mr Esom joined Waitrose in 1995 and was appointed managing director in 2002. He instigated a significant expansion programme, buying large numbers of stores from Somerfield and then Wm Morrison. He took the Waitrose brand out of its southern heartland and opened stores in the north and in Scotland.

Waitrose has built up an enviable reputation for quality food and is now regarded as the undisputed grocer of choice for top people, foodies and those who care that their fish is from sustainable sources.

Marks & Spencer is also thought to be planning a substantial expansion of its food business which will almost certainly include seafood. It has announced plans to triple the size of its Simply Food chain of convenience store outlets – from 190 to 600, including petrol forecourt stores – and has ambitious plans to open in-store restaurants, hot takeaway counters and seafood orientated deli bars as well as 24-hour cafes. Last month, Waitrose announced annual sales up 11% at £3.7bn, driven by shoppers seeking superior food. Mr Esom had said he hoped to build the chain to 210 stores.

Mr Esom’s deputy was named as the new managing director of Waitrose. The company said today that Mr Price had played a key part in Waitrose’s success “and recently has been the architect of many of our plans for future growth”.

Meanwhile, speculation over Sainsbury’s surfaced again today as shares jumped in morning trade on speculation that one of the Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz’s close associates has been mopping up stock in the supermarket group. Three Delta, an investment group run by Paul Taylor, the former head of companies run by the Tchenguiz brothers, is rumoured to have picked up a block of 250 million shares in the supermarket group. The shares are thought to have changed hands at 575p, well above the market price.

www.fishupdate.com is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.