barry williams asda

Barry Williams - who had been set to join Morrisons as ambient trading director in February - will move to Poundland instead.

Williams is joining the single-price discounter on 14 November as trading director and will report directly to CEO Kevin O’Byrne. He is replacing Simon Twigger, who is moving to a wider role within Steinhoff International, the South African retail giant, which acquired the 75% of Poundland it didn’t already own for £466m in September (it also owns Bensons for Beds, Pep&Co and discounter GHM while Steinhoff chairman Christo Wiese is also linked to South African investment vehicle Brait, which holds significant stakes in Iceland and New Look).

Former Asda chief customer officer Williams left the Walmart-owned retailer in February and said he was looking forward to teaming up with his former boss at Asda Darren Blackhurst, who is now Morrisons group commercial director.

However, during his gardening leave Williams, who lives in the Midlands close to Poundland’s Willenhall HQ, decided he would prefer to remain close to his family.

“The last 10 months have made me realise being close to my family home is important and I’d like to thank Morrisons for understanding my reasons for not returning to Yorkshire at this stage,” he said.

A spokesman for Morrisons said: “Barry Williams has decided to stay in the West Midlands to be close to his family. We understand his reasons and wish him and his family well.”

Williams was recruited by Blackhurst from Musgrave Retail Partners in January 2009 as Asda’s category director for BWS. He became chief merchandising officer in April 2102 before switching to the position of chief customer officer in 2015 in a managerial shakeup by former CEO Andy Clarke.

However, at the time of his departure from Asda, sources said he had grown disenchanted with Clarke’s strategy, and yearned for a return to front-line trading.

Poundland has struggled since its protracted acquisition of 99p Stores was completed, with profits plunging by 84% in the year to 27 March, while costs have risen since Brexit due to its reliance on imported goods. The retailer buys around £120m worth of goods in dollars.