Hepworth has been widely credited with transforming the society’s food retail business from a declining supermarket player into a major force in convenience retailing.
During his seven years in the role, Hepworth has overseen the merger with the Co-operative Retail Society and led a string of acquisitions, including Alldays, Balfour and Conveco, which have effectively doubled the size of the food retail business.
His tenure has also seen the dramatic growth of the Co-operative Retail Trading Group, which now handles 100% of co-op food buying compared to less than 70% of the total when he took over.
Co-operative Group chief executive Martin Beaumont said: “This fits in with Malcolm’s wish to pursue the next stage of his career outside the group and I agree that now is the right time for a change.”
Before joining the society, Hepworth rose through the ranks at Gateway/Somerfield, from trainee store manager to main board director.
He said: “I have immensely enjoyed the last 12 years with the Co-operative Group, but believe now is the right time to explore other opportunities.”
Neil Braithwaite, director of finance and IT for the society’s retail division, has been made acting divisional head.