Morrisons revealed today that group commercial director Richard Hodgson is set to leave the business.

The news comes as Morrisons also announced lower than expected third quarter sales. Like-for-like sales were down 2.1% excluding fuel (down 1.3% including fuel for the 13 weeks to 28 October). Total sales fell 0.4% excluding fuel (up 0.2% including fuel).

In a statement Morrisons said Hodgson, who joined from Waitrose in 2010, was leaving the day-to-day business, with corporate services director Martyn Jones stepping into the role on a temporary basis while a replacement was sought.

Early frontrunners for the role are believed to include Tesco’s Andrew Yaxley - the former fresh and frozen food commercial director who was moved from his role last month in anticipation of his taking up a general management position next year - and Morrisons marketing director Nick Collard, who is rated as a rising star in the business.

Morrisons blamed its poor performance on fragile consumer confidence and high levels of promotional activity in the market.

“We recognise the importance of improving our performance, particularly in the communication of Morrisons key points of difference to our customers and in improving the effectiveness of our promotional activity. We have put in place a number of measures to achieve this,” the retailer said.

Conditions would remain tough it explained but “full-year financial performance will be broadly in line with our expectations”.