Ocado Retail chief executive Melanie Smith is stepping down from the online grocer after three years at the helm. 

Melanie Smith

Mel Smith will be succeeded by Ocado Group non-executive director Lawrence Hene

Smith, who has led the joint venture between Ocado and Marks & Spencer since its inception in August 2019, will exit the business at the end of August. 

Her departure will bring to an end a five-year association with M&S, having initially joined the business as strategy director back in 2017

Smith will be succeeded on an interim basis by Ocado Group non-executive director Lawrence Hene, who formerly served as deputy chief executive prior to the creation of the M&S partnership.  

Ocado Retail said a permanent successor “will be appointed in due course”. 

Ocado emerged as one of the winners of the coronavirus pandemic as consumers switched to online shopping in their droves, but its growth was held back significantly by capacity constraints. 

Ocado was forced to prioritise existing customers and prevented new shoppers from signing up to its website due to a lack of available delivery slots.

The latest Kantar market share data, revealed on Tuesday, showed that Ocado’s market share remained flat year on year at 1.8%, as sales growth slowed to just 0.7%. 

Smith said: “It has been a privilege to lead the Ocado Retail team over the last three years. In this period, we have successfully established the joint venture as the UK’s best online grocer with outstanding service, introduced M&S Food to online consumers for the first time, and played our part in feeding the nation through the Covid pandemic. 

“After three years now is the right time for me to move on to new challenges and I leave behind a strong business, full of energetic, amazing colleagues that have achieved so many great things and I know will take the business onwards to achieve many more.” 

Tim Steiner, chief executive of Ocado Group and chair of Ocado Retail said: “The last two years have been extremely challenging, with a pandemic to contend with affecting the grocery market in ways that we could never have predicted. 

“Mel has steered this business through with incredible energy and I would like to thank her for all she has done. There is no question that Mel leaves the business well-prepared for faster growth in the years to come. We wish her well in her future endeavours.”

M&S boss Stuart Machin added: “Mel has been fundamental in establishing our joint venture and the successful switchover to M&S supply. I am grateful for the contribution she has made in this early phase. Whilst today’s market conditions are tough for everyone, we believe in the long-term opportunity of our partnership and the substantial further potential in the joint venture.”

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