As the UK’s retailers prepare for a gloomy New Year, Howard-Allen has agreed to join Hill & Knowlton as senior client services director.
She will sit on the agency’s board and executive committee, reporting to incoming UK CEO Richard Millar.
Howard-Allen said: ‘The role at M&S is a 24-hour job and extremely demanding. After an extraordinary seven years it is time to do something different.’
As director of communications and CSR, she has been credited with playing a significant role in its turnaround under CEOs Luc Vandevelde and Stuart Rose.
However, M&S is now facing tough trading conditions – in November it reported a 44 per cent half-year fall in profits.
Losing such an influential communicator will be a blow to the retailer. Tulchan Communications chairman Andrew Grant said: ‘M&S is like a political party and has to communicate with a vast range of stakeholders all the strategy that lands on her desk. Hers are very tough shoes to fill.’ M&S retains Tulchan Communications for financial PR.
Howard-Allen will not take up her role at H&K until the spring after she has worked her lengthy notice period at M&S.
She originally joined M&S from H&K, having spent 14 years at the agency. She said: ‘H&K is a very exciting place to be at the moment, with a range of interesting clients and putting cross-discipline
comms at the forefront of what they are doing – which is at the heart of what I had been doing at M&S.’
H&K UK CEO Sally Costerton said the agency had been in discussions with Howard-Allen for a number of months. She added: ‘H&K is very much concentrated on cross-comms and Flic is the ultimate cross-discipline communicator.’
20 November M&S holds first one-day sale in four years to boost trading
4 November Announces first-half profits fall of 44 per cent to £221.7m
3 September Whistleblower who leaks redundancy pay cuts is sacked
9 July CEO Stuart Rose reappointed as executive chairman despite 22 per cent of shareholders not voting for him
2 July Shares fall almost 25 per cent after trading update