Asda has ramped up its search for a chief operating officer who could eventually succeed chief executive Andy Clarke.

The retailer announced in January that it had begun the hunt to fill the vacancy following the departure of Mark Ibbotson, chief operations officer, who joined US parent Walmart in February as senior vice president for innovation.

This week the supermarket confirmed it is looking for a ‘very experienced board level retailer’ to fill the position, which has stood empty since former chief operating officer Judith McKenna moved to Walmart US two years ago.

“For a role like this we’re looking for someone used to working in fast paced environments, dealing with suppliers, and running shops,” an Asda spokesman told The Grocer. “We’re looking for someone who’s already working at quite a senior level.”

The successful candidate would also be responsible for overseeing corporate strategy – a new requirement of the job.

Although the spokesman confirmed the new COO could eventually become a successor for Andy Clarke, who was appointed chief executive five years ago, he insisted this would be true of any board member.

“This is about filling a vacancy, rather than replacing Andy,” he added. “He’s certainly not looking to leave any time soon.”

In January, The Grocer reported on Asda shaking up its top executive team as it prepared for the departure of chief customer officer Steve Smith, who was eventually succeeded by former chief merchandising officer for food Barry Williams.

Andrew Moore, who joined Asda in 2008 as director of George, filled the vacancy left by Williams.