Asda’s incoming chief executive Andy Clarke faces an “uphill battle” to achieve the retailer’s ambitious targets in food and non-food, according to City analysts.
Nevertheless, his well-rounded experience should stand him in good stead, they added.
Clarke, who was promoted from chief operating officer and took up his new position on Tuesday, inherits ambitious targets, outlined by his predecessor, Andy Bond - who steps up to chairman - at the beginning of the year.
Asda’s two key ambitions are to become number one in non-food and the clear number two in food within five years.
Collins Stewart analyst Greg Lawless said that while Asda was “currently not firing on all cylinders” Clarke “is a real retailer with a good understanding of all parts of the business and broad experience of both food and non-food”.
He said Asda’s market share decline this year needs to be addressed as a priority.
Clarke started out at Asda as a store manager and worked his way up the business. In 2002 he left the business for stints at value clothing chain Matalan and frozen foods retailer Iceland, but returned as retail director in 2005.
Doug McMillon, chief executive of Asda’s owner, Walmart International, said the grocer had “set the bar high” when Bond’s team, which included Clarke, set out Asda’s five-year plan this year, but added: “I know we are up to it.”
One analyst said Clarke was a “natural successor” and that in food he needed to “wind the clock back to what Asda used to be”. He said that Asda’s initiatives with price were “impressive”.
It is understood Clarke is happy with his top team, but will need to hire a new trading director to replace Darren Blackhurst, who left last week. It is understood Blackhurst’s options could include roles overseas in India or Australia.