A shake-up of senior staff at Marks & Spencer has given director of retail Steve Rowe the top job in its food division.

Rowe will take up the role of executive director of food, which promotes him to the board, on 1 October. Like his predecessor John Dixon, Rowe is a long-serving M&S employee. He joined in 1989 from Topshop where he was a store manager, and worked his way up the general merchandise business.

Since 2008, he has been director of retail, overseeing the growth of the UK estate from 622 to 731 stores. One of his biggest achievements in the role has been to bring down the cost base at a time of expansion. Although his background is not in food, Rowe has worked with Dixon on the Simply Food format and on improving availability and customer experience in store.

Meanwhile, Dixon will be moving on to become head of the general merchandise business, taking over from Kate Bostock, who is leaving “by mutual consent”.

For Dixon, the challenge is similar to the one he faced four years ago when he became head of the food business.

Back then, as he explained in a rare interview with The Grocer last week, “like-for-like [food] sales were down 6%. The City was questioning the long-term viability of the food business”. Similar challenges are now faced by the non-food business. This week, M&S posted a 6.8% fall in like-for-like general merchandise sales for the 13 weeks to 30 June.

Dixon will be supported by former Debenhams and Jaeger CEO Belinda Earl, who has the newly created role of style director.

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, a veteran of nearly 20 years with Estée Lauder who has also worked with M&S on its beauty offer, will take up the new role of corporate director of strategy implementation and business development.