Primark has hired former Matalan buying director John Lyttle as its chief operating officer.

Lyttle is joining Primark with responsibility for buying and sourcing across the UK and international divisions.

He takes over from Paul Marchant, who was promoted from chief operating officer to chief executive in September last year.

Primark, which is owned by Associated British Foods, operates 198 stores in countries including the UK, Republic of Ireland - where it trades as Penneys - Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.

Primark said Lyttle’s appointment “reiterates Primark’s commitment to invest in order to ensure the continued success of the Penneys and Primark brands and to support future expansion plans”.

Lyttle is expected to replicate a programme of improvements that he undertook at Matalan to enhance product quality and raise factory standards.

His arrival follows the appointment of former Marks & Spencer director Julian Kilmartin as buying and merchandising director and Katherine Kirk, formerly at Gap, as ethical sourcing director last year.

Primark reported 17% sales growth in the 40 weeks to June 19, driven by increased selling space and like-for-like growth.