Supermarket chain Asda appoints new chief executive

Supermarket chain Asda has announced that Roger Burnley will take the helm as president and chief executive in the new year.

Mr Burnley, the Big Four grocer's chief operating officer and deputy CEO, will take up the role on January 1 2018, taking over from Sean Clarke, who will step down by the end of December.

Mr Clarke held the reins for just over a year, having been appointed in July 2016. But Asda said it had a long-standing plan for Mr Burnley to take over as the grocer's boss after rejoining the company in October 2016.

Roger Burnley will take over as Asda chief executive and president in January (Asda/PA)

Dave Cheesewright , chief executive of Asda owner Walmart International, said: "Roger was purposefully brought back to Asda to partner with Sean ahead of the transition to Roger taking up the position of CEO.

"He and Sean have worked as a great team and I'm really confident in Roger's ability to continue building upon our returning momentum."

Asda poached Mr Burnley from rival Sainsbury's last year, where he was retail and operations director.

He also did a stint at Asda between 1996 and 2002, when he was supply chain director.

Mr Clarke is expected to "remain engaged" with Walmart after stepping down and "taking some time out", the Walmart International executive said.

The management change comes during a choppy period for Asda, as it pushes through a turnaround plan in an attempt to shore up falling sales amid a long-running supermarket price war.

Asda announced in September that it had axed nearly 300 jobs at its head office as part of a major cost-cutting drive - more than one in 10 of its 2,500 head office roles.

A further 800 staff had the scope of their job descriptions changed as part of the shake-up.

Reports also surfaced this summer that thousands of Asda workers across 18 under-performing stores were facing redundancy or changes to their working hours.

Sean Clarke will step down as chief executive and president on December 31 (Asda/PA)

Mr Clarke has been pushing through a turnaround plan in an attempt to arrest falling sales as the supermarket scraps it out with rivals in a brutal price war that has eroded profits.

There have been signs that his strategy was starting to bear fruit, with Asda posting its first quarterly sales growth in three years back in August.

The supermarket reported a 1.8% rise in like-for-like sales in the second quarter, bringing an end to 11 consecutive quarters of deterioration.

Figures were boosted by a combination of price cuts and rising inflation, and came a year after Asda reported its worst quarterly performance on record when sales tumbled by 7.5%.

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