Blow to supermarket’s non-food ambitions as Sara Bradley and Adrian Mountford defect to rivals

Sainsbury’s non-food ambitions have taken a hit this week with the shock departure of its top clothing and general merchandise directors.

Clothing director Sara Bradley and general merchandise director Adrian Mountford will leave the business, as revealed by on Tuesday. Bradley has been lured back to George at Asda to become its head of buying for childrenswear and menswear, while Mountford will become commercial director at Matalan.

The departures are understood to be unrelated but will leave Sainsbury’s with two key roles to fill at a time when its focus is on non-food growth. The pair’s responsibilities will be overseen by MD of non-food Luke Jensen while the grocer searches for replacements.

Non-food growth is a key plank of chief executive Justin King’s strategy. In its interim results in November, he said non-food was growing at three times the rate of food and the supermarket was now the 10th largest clothing retailer by volume.

King wants to double the size of the non-food business within five years. The grocer is rolling out its large-scale stores, at 100,000 sq ft, which have larger non-food areas, and pushing non-food online.

Earlier this year, Jensen told Retail Week that “non-food is centre stage for Sainsbury’s” and the supermarket was “playing catch-up in terms of space”. One commentator said the loss of the two directors would leave gaps in Sainsbury’s buying and product expertise, and while Jensen is “great strategically” the grocer needed to get in some people who really understood product.

Sainsbury’s played down the “unrelated moves” and said: “We have a great team in place and our investment in non-food continues at great pace: last week we opened our second 100,000 sq ft store in Lincoln, and will this week open our third in Stanway.”

Bradley will be joining a beefed-up team at George at Asda. Led by managing director Andrew Moore, she will join Nick Jones, who joins from Marks & Spencer in January, and Rachael Field, who joined from Gap in September as design trend manager. Bradley was previously at George before moving to head up Sainsbury’s Tu. Moore said Bradley’s appointment would help to “significantly strengthen our business”.

Mountford will join Matalan as commercial director, where he will make the move back into clothing as well as homewares. Matalan acting chief executive Paul Gilbert said he was confident Mountford’s “depth and breadth of retail experience will be highly complementary to the Matalan business”.

It is understood Odgers Berndtson placed Mountford at Matalan.