Stuart Mitchell, former MD of Sainsbury, has returned to the UK as chief executive officer for high street general retailer Wilkinson.

Mitchell left the MD role at Sainsbury in May 2004 after 20 years at the supermarket group and moved to Taiwan to become managing director of AS Watson’s health and beauty division in the country.

Taiwan is AS Watson’s largest market in Asia and his time in the role there is expected to give Wilkinson a first-hand perspective on global sourcing.

During his time at Sainsbury, Mitchell held a variety of senior positions within procurement, primary agriculture, non food and strategy. He was appointed to Sainsbury’s board of directors in January 2002 and took up the managing director role in 2003, but left a year later after a management restructure. In his new role at Wilkinson, he will become only the fifth chief executive officer since the company was founded in 1930, replacing Gordon Brown, who retires in 2007. He is expected to join Wilkinson in the autumn.

Mitchell said: “Wilkinson is a great company, has great people and it’s a great opportunity.” His appointment comes as Wilkinson works to extend its ­grocery offer beyond confectionery, toiletries and petcare products.

In April this year The Grocer revealed that it was trialling the sale of about 600 branded food products, including pre-packed sandwiches, fresh bread, salads, tinned and chilled items, cereals, biscuits and pasta sauces in 20 of its stores.

Meanwhile, Wilkinson has also appointed John Jackson and James Browning as non-executive directors. Jackson has held a number of director roles and is also currently a non-executive director of specialist chocolate retailer Thorntons, while Browning is currently CEO of Total Home Entertainment.