Steve Murrells has stamped his mark on The Co-operative’s food business just six months after joining as chief executive with several senior hires. Retail Week takes a look at the implications.

Steve Murrells has pulled off a coup this week in poaching several new directors with strong credentials. The well-regarded Sainsbury’s loyalty director Andrew Mann joins the mutual as its first customer director while former New Look and Asda IT director Howard Reed has taken up the new role of food chief information officer.

Mann has carved a strong reputation leading the marketing of brands in Cadbury, Schweppes, Coca-Cola and Centrica.

But it is his work in senior marketing positions in Tesco handling Clubcard, as well as the insights gained through heading up Sainsbury’s loyalty card Nectar, that will be most valued by the The Co-operative. Commentators have long urged the grocer to leverage data more effectively to tailor ranges and promotions.

Reed’s appointment also offers an indication as to the retailer’s future. Under the stewardship of group chief information officer Andy Haywood, the Co-operative Group is conducting a strategic review of online operations throughout the group.

Reed, who has experience across both fashion and grocery, will add valuable hands-on experience as the retailer considers launching an online grocery offer later this year. Haywood began a strategic review in October to bring together the mutual’s disparate businesses and decide whether it could follow its electricals business and begin selling food online.

The retailer will be keen to move quickly to find a profitable model with Iceland and Morrisons also poised to launch online grocery. The Co-op’s in-town locations will give it a strategic advantage in offering click-and-collect services.

Reed’s experience with New Look – which has made strides in multichannel, expanding ranges online, introducing kiosks to London stores and launching a number of apps – will prove vital. Murrells yesterday told Retail Week that The Co-op has rolled out its trial of Amazon collection lockers in stores and Reed will be keen to take advantage of the retailer’s convenient locations to develop its multichannel offer further.

Cheryl Marshall, who moves from a group role, will have a task on her hands as service delivery director after Murrells’ admission that The Co-op let store standards slip and hygiene levels had not been ideal. Murells has also made Mark Hale, who was director of food information services and supply chain, supply chain director. 

Murells has moved quickly to implement a new and invigorated team as The Co-op moves into a new era under new group chief executive Euan Sutherland, who replaces Peter Marks in May.

With a new head office and Christmas like-for-likes and market share moving in the right direction, Murrells will feel confident 2013 could be the year that one of the oldest names in retail reflects its huge retail experience on its balance sheet.