Asda’s second in-command Roger Burnley is to succeed Sean Clarke as the grocer’s chief executive from January next year.

Burnley, who was widely seen as chief executive in waiting, returned to Asda from Sainsbury’s as chief commercial officer and deputy chief executive in October last year.

Clarke had been parachuted into the hotseat from Asda owner Walmart’s Chinese business a few months earlier in a bid to steady the ship.

The supermarket giant’s sales had been battered by the rapid growth of discount duo Aldi and Lidl and the ongoing recoveries of big four rivals Tesco and Morrisons.

Just weeks after he took the helm, Clarke said Asda had started “one of the biggest journeys of reinvention” in its history as he faced into a 7.5% decline in second quarter like-for-like sales – its worst-ever top line performance.

Clarke focused on sharpening prices, driving product availability and improving customer service in stores as he took Asda back to retail basics.

The strategy helped Asda post its first quarterly sales growth for three years, as like-for-like sales climbed 1.8% in the 13 weeks to July 28.

It is due to update on its third-quarter trading performance next month.

Walmart International chief executive David Cheesewright said: “Roger was purposefully brought back to Asda to partner with Sean ahead of the transition to Roger taking up the position of chief executive.

“He and Sean have worked as a great team and I’m really confident in Roger’s ability to continue building upon our returning momentum.”

Clarke will remain “engaged with Walmart” after handing over the reins at Asda, Cheesewright said.

Burnley said: “Asda is a great business and we’ve started to realise its potential again. Sean’s focus on serving customers and simplifying the business has established a firm foundation on which we can build.”

Clarke said: “Asda is moving in the right direction but there is still much more for us to do. I am excited to see the momentum continue under Roger’s leadership.

“Walmart has given me and my family some great opportunities. I am looking forward to taking some time out but I will always stay connected to the company.”