Loblaw chief operating officer Dalton Philips was appointed chief executive of Morrisons this week.

The highly regarded Philips - whose appointment was revealed exclusively by Retail-week.com on Wednesday - will succeed Marc Bolland, who is leaving to lead Marks & Spencer, and brings a wealth of food retail experience to the Morrisons role.

41-year-old Philips is a former chief executive of Irish department store chain Brown Thomas - part of the Weston empire, which also controls Canadian grocer Loblaw - and previously held various roles at Walmart’s international arm. He has maintained close connections to UK retail through former Asda boss Allan Leighton, who is deputy chairman of Loblaw, which has 1,000 shops and turns over £18bn a year.

Philips’ name had not featured in speculation about the Morrisons job. As with Bolland, Morrisons surprised observers by going beyond traditional hunting grounds in its search.

His appointment will be a blow to Morrisons finance director Richard Pennycook, who was the foremost internal candidate for the role.

Leighton said: “Food retail today is a very global business and the work that we are doing at Loblaw is highly visible around the retail world. Dalton’s appointment is a reflection of this and the progress that we are seen to have made.”

Morrisons chairman Sir Ian Gibson said Philips “has tremendous retail pedigree and a wealth of experience from senior retail positions

around the world”.

Halfords chief executive David Wild, who worked with Philips at Walmart’s German business, said he has “a very good retail pedigree and knowledge of food retailing”, and that the variety of his international experience would be invaluable. “He’s also one of those people who it’s almost impossible to dislike,” said Wild.

Bryan Roberts, global research director at Planet Retail, said Philips had successfully navigated supply chain difficulties at Loblaw and oversaw key private label developments and pricing initiatives. He added: “He should be well positioned to continue the good work where Bolland left off.”

There was no indication at the time of going to press whether Philips’ hiring would enable M&S to confirm a start date for Bolland.

Morrisons was the top-performing UK grocer over Christmas, with a like-for-like sales uplift of 6.5%. Under Bolland, the company staged a spectacular recovery after the disastrous Safeway takeover.