Hannah Gibson - press shot

Source: Ocado Retail

Hannah Gibson, Ocado Retail CEO

Ocado Retail has appointed a new CEO following the surprise departure of Mel Smith in July.

Hannah Gibson – who has spent more than a decade working within Ocado Group – was named as Smith’s successor today.

Gibson is currently chief product officer for Ocado’s technology arm, where she “sets the strategy and drives forward the Ocado Smart Platform for Ocado Group’s partners, including Ocado Retail” the company said.

“I am thrilled to be returning to Ocado Retail at this stage in its growth journey and privileged to serve our customers,” Gibson said.

“I look forward to working more closely with the teams across Ocado Retail, Ocado Group and M&S to meet the market challenges of today and to further strengthen our leading online grocery proposition. Together, we will continue to focus on delivering the best service, range and value to our growing customer base, and seize the incredible opportunities ahead,” she added.

Prior to the launch of Ocado Retail as a joint venture with M&S in 2019, Gibson was head of Ocado’s one-hour delivery service Ocado Zoom (now Zoom by Ocado) where she took the division “from concept to launch in two years” Ocado said. She has also served as head of product and merchandising on the Ocado Retail leadership team.

Before joining Ocado, Gibson served for two years as a senior policy advisor to No 10 Downing Street under David Cameron.

Gibson starts in the role in late September, replacing interim CEO Lawrence Hene, a former deputy CEO of Ocado Retail. Smith’s departure – which came just a day before results revealing a £211m first half pre-tax loss and 8% drop in sales – was considered sudden by industry observers.

“It would appear to us that a conventional succession planning process did not kick in, suggesting to our minds that a somewhat quick decision has been undertaken,” said Shore Capital director Clive Black at the time.

That Smith was pushed was denied by Ocado Group CEO Tim Steiner, who told The Grocer: “I don’t think Mel had to go by any means at all, but it was a mutually agreed time that made it sensible for handover and somebody new to come in.”

Initially, the plan was Smith’s tenure would last five years, but “the Covid years, running a grocery retail business during that time were like dog years. It was absolutely gruelling,” Steiner explained.

Gibson was “the right leader” Steiner said, to deliver on Ocado Retail’s “big ambitions” while “also being able to navigate the nearer-term challenges associated with the macroeconomic environment”.

“At Ocado Group, we have consistently benefited from her outstanding leadership and laser focus on the customer proposition and I have no doubt that this will continue,” he added.

Gibson “combines a clear passion for product and customer, with an exceptional working knowledge of Ocado’s proprietary technology” said Stuart Machin, CEO of Marks & Spencer.

“This experience makes her the ideal candidate to unlock the huge potential that remains in our joint venture and lead our partnership into the next phase of growth,” he added.