Justin KingChief executive Sainsbury's
Sainsbury’s was supposed to be the retailer that would suffer most when the recession arrived. How wrong the pundits were. In fact, the grocer, which celebrates its 140th anniversary this year, has come into its own – gaining market share by reinforcing its quality and provenance credentials at the same time as demonstrating that it can deliver good value too.
The company has conveyed this through marketing that is energetic, engaging and modern, reflecting not just the personality of the star of the ads, Jamie Oliver, but the man driving the transformation of the business, Justin King.
Retail Week’s Retail Leader of the Year, 2009, King has overseen an impressive sales-led recovery at the supermarket, gaining market share and going back to the traditional values of the business. Promotions such as “Feed your family for a fiver” and “Love your leftovers” have really caught the mood of credit-crunched shoppers and put Sainsbury’s back on track.
King is retail Marmite. Never lacking self-assurance, the smooth 48-year-old isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But even his critics concede that his recovery plan has borne fruit. His profile has soared over the past year, when he was appointed Boris Johnson’s business adviser for the London Olympics and made a successful appearance on Question Time.
The question now is: where next? Revealing Sainsbury’s full-year results in May, King pledged his allegiance to the grocer, saying the next five years will be the really interesting part of the Sainsbury’s turnaround.
But a man of his self-belief, the challenge of filling the highest profile role in UK retail by taking over from Sir Stuart Rose at Marks & Spencer would be a difficult offer to resist. Sainsbury’s may be a bigger company by market capitalisation, but – particularly given King’s Marks & Spencer background – the lure of taking the hot seat in Paddington would still be massive. Maybe the answer lies in the long-mooted Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s merger, a job big enough even for King.