New Morrisons chief executive David Potts will demand a “step change” in standards as he looks to revive the struggling supermarket.

A former colleague who worked closely with Potts at Tesco said he is a “fantastic operator whose attention to detail and understanding of retail disciplines is second to none”.

“David is someone who leads from the front. He will demand a step change in standards at Morrisons and will set very high expectations.”

Morrisons announced on Thursday that Potts, who worked at Tesco for 38 years after joining as a shelf stacker in 1973, was to replace Dalton Philips as CEO. He will begin in 16 March and receive an £850,000 a year salary, the same as Philips.

While he was running Tesco’s Asian business when he left in 2011, he spent the majority of his time at the retailer in this country and ran the UK and Ireland business for a time. His former colleague said few people knew as much about UK grocery as Potts.

“He was not a charismatic manager but someone who led by example and who was admired rather than liked”. During his time there, Potts spent the majority of his time in stores, the source explained. “He would be in Cheshunt on a Monday and Tuesday but the rest of the week he would be out and about. If you had to have a meeting with him on these days it would inevitably end up being at 6.30am at some far-flung store,” he explained.

Potts’ strength, he said, was in delivering change programmes such as the Every Little Helps mission and creating the One in Front queue management system. He was also key to the development of Tesco Express and “His own mantra was Better, Simpler, Cheaper,” he said.

“Potts was worshipped by the rank and file at Tesco,” added another former colleague. “He is a retail man to the core. Coming up from a shelf-stacker he showed them what was possible. But more importantly he knew what he was talking about and they respected that.”

Morrisons chairman Andrew Higginson told The Grocer Potts would “make Morrisons like Morrisons again. Over the last few years Morrisons has spent a lot of time trying to copy what other supermarkets have been doing.”

He said Potts’ key focus would be on driving the core supermarket estate.

“Some improvements can be made immediately but I don’t see the full turnaround for at least three years. W e are the number four player and the plan is to get the core store business trading well and returned to growth. We have a long way to go.”

Higginson confirmed that Potts was definitely his first choice to take the helm at Morrisons.

“He is a very humble bloke who leads by example. He has forgotten more about retail than I know. He is someone who merits the respect of the staff. He has great drive and integrity and sets exactingly high standards of himself.”

He also suggested there could be further additions to the board.

“We are always looking to strengthen the team but at executive and non-exec level. It is the role of the chief executive to look after the executives and he will be able to judge what strengths and weaknesses there are.”