Asda has poached grocery rival Lidl’s chief operating officer Chris Walker to oversee its supermarket operations, Retail Week can reveal.
The Walmart-owned retailer has drafted in Walker to be its new vice-president of supermarkets as the embattled grocer continues to reshuffle its senior leadership team.
It comes just a month after Asda revealed that its chief executive Andy Clarke was stepping down after six years at the helm.
Walmart veteran Sean Clarke was parachuted in from the US retail titan’s Chinese business to replace his namesake and officially took the reins last Monday.
Walker, who held the chief operating officer role at Lidl on a joint basis alongside Martin Bailie, will report to senior vice president of retail Glenn Bowles until Burnley takes up his role in October.
Walker will join Asda later this year in a role that carries more responsibility than the existing senior director of supermarkets position, which is currently occupied by Paul Rowland.
Rowland is stepping down from that role and will depart in the summer, an Asda spokesman said.
Walker has spent 13 years with Lidl, joining as a trainee area manager and then serving as a warehouse manager in the South West between 2005 and 2007.
He went on to become sales operations manager and served as regional director for almost seven years before being promoted to chief operating officer in June 2014.
Bowles said: “Chris’ first-hand experience in managing more than 400 small-format stores means that he is the perfect candidate to continue to develop the supermarket format.
“This is an exciting time for supermarkets as our customers’ shopping habits continue to change. Smaller, but more frequent shopping trips are becoming the norm giving us a fantastic opportunity for our customers to reappraise our small store offer.
“We’re approaching the next phase of reinvention where we should be excited and encouraged by the changes that we’re making.”
Asda has been the worst performing member of the big four for a number of months according to Kantar Worldpanel data and has suffered seven consecutive quarters of falling sales, although profits have held up during a turbulent period of trading.
Walmart’s international boss Dave Cheesewright admitted last month that he was “very disappointed” with Asda’s performance and said its strategy would now shift from protecting profits to growing market share, sparking speculation that the grocer could fire the starting gun on another supermarket price war.
The latest changes come after Andy Murray was unveiled as Asda’s new chief customer officer in February, replacing Barry Williams, while the grocer has also poached Roger Burnley from Sainsbury’s to take on the role of deputy chief executive and chief operating officer.
It is understood that Walker was placed at Asda by search specialist Clarity.