Jacqui Jackson has been named as vice chairman of the National Guild of Spar.
The Guild is the decision-making body for all operational and marketing matters and it is the first time the role has been made a salaried position.
Jackson has 20 years experience working in Spar. From 1984 to 2005 she was MD of Thomas Jardine & Co, a fourth-generation family business that owned two Spar stores.
In 2005 she sold the stores to take up an academic career at the University of Central Lancashire.
She also has an MA in business management and wrote her dissertation on Spar's utilisation of the Guild system.
"The Guilds are made up of entrepreneurs and independent owners who want to see common goals and joined-up thinking, which will strengthen their group against competitors," she said. "I will work not only to improve communications, but to give additional support to retailers in a competitive marketplace."