The Co-operative Food’s chief operating officer Sean Toal is to leave the mutual to join value general merchandise retailer Wilkinson.

Toal, who had previously held the role of interim chief executive of The Co-op Food before retail chief Steve Murrells joined in July 2012, will join Wilkinson “in the next few months”, The Co-op said.

Toal will leave The Co-op after 14 years with the Manchester-based grocer in which he rose through the ranks from retail operations director to chief operating officer.

In an internal memo, Co-operative retail chief Steve Murrells said: “Sean Toal has decided to leave the business to take up a new role at Wilkinson as chief operating officer. This is a terrific opportunity for Sean and I’m delighted for him personally that it has come about.

“I know the decision to leave the business was not one Sean took lightly and I would like to thank him for his 14 years of great service.” 

He added: “Sean was also acting chief executive in the period before my appointment and I would like to thank him for the personal support he has given me over the past two years and the great commitment to the business, particularly in the way he has developed our Co-operative talent for the future.”

Toal’s replacement is expected to be revealed shortly before his departure.

In a joint statement Wilkinson family directors Karin Swann and Lisa Wilkinson said: “We are delighted that Sean will be joining us.

“He is a dedicated, results-driven retailer with a long record of success and clear strategic thinking. He will focus on key operational areas including retail, distribution and buying. He will work alongside chief finance officer Ian Ellis to complete the team as we continue to drive the business forward.”