Former Woolworths commercial director Steve Jebson has been appointed to the same role at Superdrug, the health and beauty giant owned by AS Watson.

Jebson, who had previously been working with fellow ex-Woolworths director Tony Page to resurrect a Woolies-style chain by acquiring some of the defunct retailer’s stores, has already begun his new job.

His move indicates that Page’s attempts to recreate Woolworths are taking longer than expected and may never come to fruition, industry sources said.

Page, along with former UBS banker Gareth Thomas and Woolies colleague Andy Lathan, has been trying to raise between £5m and £10m to launch his business since Woolworths became the biggest retail casualty of the downturn.

He hopes to build a chain of as many as 200 stores and former Kingfisher chief executive Sir Geoff Mulcahy has informally provided advice.

Page said he understood Jebson’s decision, adding: “I continue to have the vision of setting up the business and I’m pretty confident about it happening.” He said talks continue with a number of prospective backers.

At Superdrug, Jebson - who has worked for AS Watson before - replaces trading director Jeff Wemyss. AS Watson Health & Beauty UK chief executive Jeremy Seigal said: “I am sure Steve will continue the good progress made by our commercial team and make a quick and positive contribution.”

No comment was available from Jebson.