Jesús Lorente’s experience in hypermarkets and fresh food were a key factor to him taking over as Asda merchandising boss

Asda has turned to former Carrefour Spain hypermarkets boss Jesús Lorente in a bid to breathe new life into its struggling stores, after announcing the pending retirement of merchandising boss Andrew Moore.

In what will mean a double changing of the guard at the top of Asda come the new year, Lorente will take over the role of chief merchandising officer on 1 January, with Moore stepping down.

At the same time, chief operating officer Roger Burnley is to replace Sean Clarke at the helm of Asda as president and CEO.

Lorente has been a key player at the Spanish arm of the retailer for the past eight years, working across roles in the supply chain, logistics and innovation, and most recently as chief merchandising officer.

Sources said his strong track records in hypermarkets and fresh food were key to his appointment. Asda has a relatively large proportion of big stores, and is said to be pinning its hopes for recovery on its fresh food offer.

It is understood Lorente’s experience in battling discount retailers in Spain was another reason behind his appointment.

Lorente is also a former Unilever veteran, having previously worked with the company for 18 years in the UK, and in Spain and the US. Asda hopes this experience will help him mend its battered relationship with suppliers.

Asda said Lorente would spend the next two months under an induction process, with the help of Moore.

Moore, who spearheaded Asda’s controversial Project Renewal strategy under former boss Andy Clarke, has worked for Asda for nearly a decade, having joined in 2008 as director of George.

In January 2015, Moore replaced Barry Williams as chief merchandising officer, adding food trading to his previous responsibilities.

Asda’s slow recovery, especially compared with rivals Tesco and Morrisons, has also been accompanied by a major fallout with suppliers.

In September, a damning report by Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon revealed how under Project Renewal Asda had demanded its suppliers paid millions towards the now-defunct strategy or face the threat of delisting,

Tacon published details of a probe dating back to March 2016, with suppliers having told how they were in some cases asked to hand over as much as 25% of their annual turnover for SKUs, or face being removed from Asda’s shelves.

The Adjudicator revealed how under Project Renewal, launched in 2015 and implemented in early 2016, suppliers were faced with demands for price reductions. Suppliers were given as little as 24 hours, or in one case “overnight”, to agree to its demands, she said.

Suppliers were subjected to “aggressive tactics, such as inflexible demands made by Asda buyers”, the probe found, with “the threat of delisting in the background”.

Asda has been seeking to build bridges with suppliers as part of its partial recovery under Clarke, as well as ramping up price competitiveness with the discounters and putting more resources to tackle poor availability and service.

Burnley returned to Asda as chief operating officer and deputy CEO in October 2016 from his position as Sainsbury’s operations and retail director, having joined the board following Clarke’s appointment as president and chief executive in July 2016.

Clarke said today: “After almost 10 years with Asda, Andrew Moore will retire at the end of 2017, succeeded by Jesús Lorente as chief merchandising officer. I’m grateful for Andrew’s support in helping find the right time for the change, and the right successor.

“It’s been my privilege to work alongside Andrew. His contribution as chief merchandising officer and more broadly as an Asda board director has been key to the progress we’ve made in getting back to winning ways.

“I’m also delighted to welcome Jesús to the Asda family. He brings a passion for fresh food and breadth of experience in hypermarket retailing. Over the coming months, he will complete his Asda induction in readiness to take the helm as CMO in January 2018.”

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