Walmart, Asda’s parent company, has announced the departure of chief executive Andy Clarke. He is to be replaced by the head of Walmart’s Chinese business, Sean Clarke, who started his career at Asda in 2001. The appointment appears slightly unexpected after Andy Clarke’s statement last week that he would be succeed by Roger Burnley, who has now been named instead as Asda’s deputy chief executive and chief operating officer.
Andy Clarke has headed Asda for six years, seeing markets grow unrelentingly as Asda recently reported seven straight quarters of declining sales. Last month, like-for-like sales in the first quarter of 2016 fell 5.7 per cent. According to BBC business correspondent Emma Simpson, Sean Clarke is perceived to be a “rising star” within Walmart due to his experience in dealing with major structural change, and was likely roped in to recoup some of Asda’s market share in the UK. Asda is attempting to revive its performance by narrowing the price gap with discounters such as Aldi and Lidl, who pose the largest threat to traditional high street grocers. All four major supermarket chains – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – have been feeling the heat as Aldi and Lidl encroach on their market share. David Cheesewright, president and chief executive of Walmart International, hopes for Sean Clarke to build upon the momentum of Project Renewal, which was designed to reduce costs and modernise 95 of the retailer’s largest stores.