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Source: Ocado Retail

Ocado Retail has made 40 head office staff redundant in a major shake-up of its buying and commercial teams.

The company told The Grocer it had last month “completed a small restructure at its head office site” as part of an “ongoing drive for efficiency and cost effectiveness”.

The restructure has seen all head of buying roles removed, and the implementation of a new buying team leadership structure.

Since September, the buying function has been led by Rose Price – who has been with the company since 2010 – who announced her retirement last year. For now, she is serving as chief commercial officer on an interim basis, with a permanent CCO to be appointed shortly.

The announcement of her departure followed Ocado Retail’s appointment in November last year of former Lidl GB chief commercial officer Julian Beer, as chief merchandising officer with responsibility for the buying function. The Grocer has learnt Beer quietly left the business within around six months.

Buying teams for each category are now led by a senior buying manager. It is understood many of the former heads of buying remain with the business, in different roles. Some have been promoted – among them former head of buying fresh foods Simon Hinks, who is now head of strategic sourcing and responsible for Ocado’s relationship with M&S, and Leo Fields, now head of transformation having served as head of buying chilled and frozen since the beginning of the year.

The shake-up has also seen some new arrivals. Among them Candice Ferreira, former commercial director at Flamingo Horticulture, who has joined the online supermarket as director of fresh, chilled and frozen.

The restructure “means a more agile team and the right structure going forward” a spokesman for Ocado told The Grocer.

Despite the cuts, the trading team is hiring, with around 10 live vacancies across various levels of seniority.

Earlier this year suppliers to Ocado Retail told The Grocer they faced a “conveyor belt” of buyers, complaining the buying team was “in disarray”. “We continually lose buyers,” one long-standing supplier said at the time.

The restructure marks the first major management move of Ocado Retail’s new CEO Hannah Gibson, who took up the role in September following the surprise departure of Mel Smith in July.

Last month, Ocado Group warned investors it was hitting pause on two planned new CFCs, which had been scheduled to open in 2024 and 2025. The company’s network of CFCs currently have “surplus capacity” CFO Stephen Daintith said, adding that the decision was “a pause not a stop”.

In its third quarter trading statement in September, Ocado reported a slight increase (2.7%) in sales versus the last quarter last year. Despite active customer numbers growing by 23% year on year to 946,000, and average orders per week increasing by 10.7%, those customers were shopping smaller baskets and seeking value-for-money items, driving average basket value down by 6% to £116.