Asda has appointed former Ilva chief operating officer Colin Haggerty to the new role of business development director for its Asda Living non-food format.

Haggerty, who left Ilva in August after it was bought by Icelandic firm Lagerinn, will focus mainly on the UK. He will also have international responsibilities and undertake assignments for Wal-Mart.

In the UK, Asda will have 13 Asda Living stores before the end of the year. It believes there is potential for 300.

The UK’s second-largest grocer warned this week that it will get tougher with suppliers and make further operational efficiencies as it gears up for an economic slowdown next year.

Speaking at the IGD conference on Tuesday, Asda food trading director Darren Blackhurst said: “As the economy starts to slow down, we will have to make some hard choices as an industry.

He added that “affordability and availability will be key” and the supermarket will take a hard line with suppliers if needed. “We want to support British farmers, but we don’t want to be held for ransom if other countries can produce it for cheaper,” he said.

Worldwide rises in commodity prices, interest rate hikes and turbulent times in the world mortgage markets have all combined to raise fears that next year could bring a significant slowdown across the economy.

Blackhurst said: “Times are getting tougher. This will make cost-cutting more critical.” He added there was “still a real need for low prices” and said Asda will be working hard to offset price increases in raw materials through operational efficiencies.