by Mark Chillingworth

Asos recruits M&S Interim CIO Clifford Cohen

Feb 13, 20153 mins
CareersIT LeadershipRetail Industry

Sources close to online retailer report that Clifford Cohen, a veteran of high street department store chain Marks & Spencer is joining Asos as its latest CIO.

Cohen was interim CIO at Marks & Spencer following Darrell Stein leaving to become CIO of fast moving goods manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser and Carl Dawson joining as CIO of Marks & Spencer. Cohen had been with Marks & Spencer for over seven years in various head of business solutions roles, with responsibilities for multi-channel, retail, general merchandise and infrastructure. He stepped up to the interim CIO role in July 2014 until Dawson’s arrival September 2014.

Asos lost CIO Pete Marsden in September 2014 in a split that has been described to this title as uncomfortable for both parties. Marsden was the third CIO to leave Asos since 2010 following Gary Mudie and Dan West out of the North London headquarters door. Asos at the time said it was looking both internally and externally for a replacement for Marsden. Asos recruited Marsden from outside of its organisation, West was an internal promotion and Mudie and external recruitment joining from stationary retailer Paperchase.

Cohen follows Kate Bostock from Marks & Spencer to Asos. Bostock joined the Asos board in October 2012 as Director of Trading and Product, but left in less than a year to join high street women’s fashion chain Coast in August 2013 as Chief Executive.

Sources tell CIO UK Asos is struggling with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform that isn’t fit for purpose, resulting in order processing problems. Asos, amongst a large number of retailers, was hit by the online surge created by the Black Friday discounting phenomena in November 2014 in the run up to last Christmas.

CIO UK asked industry experts last September when Marsden resigned as CIO if Asos would struggle to find a new CIO. Head hunters were divided, some believing the fast paced entrepreneurial nature of Asos would attract CIOs and others felt it was a role fraught with risk.

Catherine Stagg-Maceyis a leadership coach, business advisor and columnist for CIO UK, she said:

“High turnover of key staff is always a concern for any future employee. Whilst always a consideration in the case of Asos, anyone considering the CIO role should be prepared to do their homework; as there are important questions around support and expectations from key stakeholders for the role, clarity of business strategy and the current IT business relationship.”

Marsden joined Asos in September 2012 to replace Dan West who took over from Gary Mudie in 2010. Asos were asked to comment on the recruitment of another new CIO but have not returned calls.