Ken Towle_Nisa (2019)

Ken Towle has led Nisa since 2018

Asda has moved to bolster its leadership team with the appointment of Nisa CEO Ken Towle as retail director.

The move comes as chief merchandising officer Derek Lawlor confirmed he is leaving the business after six years. Lawlor has led Asda’s commercial team since 2019. Much of his responsibilities will go to Kris Comerford, who will join the business in late summer as chief commercial officer, food. Comerford joins from Tesco where he was UK commercial director, packaged foods, fuel and tobacco.

Towle, who has been Nisa CEO since 2018, will take on responsibility for all of Asda’s stores. Before he joined Nisa, Towle spent 30 years with Tesco, where he worked in a variety of roles including stores director and MD for Central Europe, Ireland and Turkey.

The moves come as Asda’s new owners the Issa brothers and TDR Capital continue to search for a CEO to replace Roger Burnley, who left in August.

As part of the latest board shake-up Simon Gregg, who currently leads Asda’s online operation, is joining the executive leadership team. Liz Evans also joined the executive leadership team this week as MD, George.

“Today we are confirming changes to the leadership of our business as we set ourselves up for the future,” said Mohsin and Zuber Issa.

“Regretfully, Derek Lawlor has decided to leave the business after six years, and he goes with our best wishes and thanks for the future. He has made a real and tangible difference to our business and we thank him for all he has done.

“The appointment of Ken Towle, Kris Comerford and Simon Gregg to our leadership team will bring a great combination of experience and new thinking to our table. Ken’s considerable expertise as a retail and wholesale CEO with many years’ experience in some of the largest and most complex businesses, both in the UK and internationally, make him the right person to lead our retail operations team.

“Kris’ breadth of experience will be invaluable for us as we build on our recent successes and continue our drive to become a market leader in food. I am confident that under his leadership we will continue to make great strides in this important ambition.

“Simon has done a fantastic job of leading our online team and his appointment to the exec team demonstrates the continued significance of online to our business growth.

“We are delighted that we continue to attract such talent to our great business. Together, we will continue to put our customers at the heart of all our decision making and focus on delivering excellent service in what we know will be another challenging period for consumers.”

Towle said: “It’s an exciting time to be joining the Asda team and I am really looking forward to getting started later in the year.”

Towle’s role at Nisa, which is owned by the Co-op, will be filled by Co-op chief commercial officer Michael Fletcher.