Former M&S boss Rose takes the helm at Ocado

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Retail veteran Sir Stuart Rose is to become chairman of online grocer Ocado in his most high-profile appointment since stepping down from the helm of Marks & Spencer.

The group said Rose will take on the role when current chairman Lord Grade retires on 10 May.

His appointment marks a return to the stock market after leaving M&S in January 2011 following a six-year tenure with the high street giant.

It also comes as a major coup for Ocado, which recently reported a solid Christmas trading performance with sales up 14 per cent to £91.6 million in the six weeks to 6 January.

Rose said: “I have been very impressed at the impact and progress Ocado has made to date.

“As retail goes through a fundamental shift into the digital world, I believe Ocado’s model and the high standards of customer service it provides will see it emerge as a powerful online player.”

He joins Ocado as it faces intense competition from major supermarket chains such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

Despite a successful Christmas, Ocado has yet to post an annual profit and has suffered a turbulent start to life as a listed company since floating in July 2010.

Lord Grade said he was leaving the company in the “best possible hands”, adding that the group will benefit from Rose’s “substantial retail experience and commercial acumen”.

Rose has maintained a low profile since leaving M&S, although he made his return to the high street last June as chairman of discount fashion chain Blue Inc, which has close to 200 stores.

He is also chairman of online fashion recommendation service Dressipi and is a non-executive director of Woolworths, the South African food and clothes group.

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said: “Sir Stuart is someone we hold in high regard. He is great fun, colourful, opinionated and experienced. He will bring much-needed esteem to Ocado, a company that had a tarnished flotation to our minds and has a fundamentally flawed business model.

“To use a footballing analogy, this appointment has the feel of Harry Redknapp joining QPR from Tottenham Hotspur; where would one rather be?”