Sainsbury’s decision to merge its supply chain and retail director roles could enhance in-store availability, analysts say.

The grocer promoted supply chain director Roger Burnley to the new role of retail and logistics director on the operating board, following the departure of retail director Ken McMeikan to become chief executive of bakery chain Greggs from June.

Speculation had been rife that McMeikan would not be returning to the grocer after it announced he would take a three-month sabbatical in January, but Sainsbury’s had denied the rumours.

One City analyst said: “I do not think the whole story has come out yet. It could be as simple as him taking a sabbatical, he could have wanted another challenge, or he could have been head-hunted during his sabbatical.”

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said the combined role would help the grocer to “continue to improve performance of stores and depots”.

One City analyst said: “You can get a lot of finger-pointing between supply chain and stores. By moving the two roles together, it could help improve some of the availability issues Sainsbury’s has, which you can see if you go into the stores.”

Burnley has been Sainsbury’s supply chain director since March 2006.