Barry Williams

Barry Williams is set to team up with his old boss Darren Blackhurst - as trading director for ambient at Morrisons.

Williams will have responsibility for the core grocery, beers, wines & spirits, baby goods, household, and health & beauty offers, and will take up his new role in February 2017 - a year after quitting the Walmart-owned retailer - replacing Andrew Pleasance, who has moved to a special projects role.

“Barry brings a wealth of trading experience and relationships with food suppliers as well as a strong understanding of our customers,” said Morrisons group commercial director Darren Blackhurst, who hired Williams when he was Asda’s commercial director. “His arrival is another step in shaping a Morrisons team that will listen to and work hard for customers.”

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 Asda’s strategy under Clarke, and yearned for a return to the front line trading environment.

Speaking exclusively to The Grocer, Williams said he was looking forward to working again with Blackhurst and Alex Brown, another ex-Asda colleague, now his equivalent on the fresh side at Morrisons, and said he was not bothered that the role was effectively a step down from his old board-level roles at Asda.

“I’ve worked my way up from the bottom rung. Titles don’t matter to me, I’m happy with what I’m doing, and not having board-level responsibility means more time to focus on trading.

“I’ve always loved a commercial role. Getting that trading floor excited, working as a team, with the suppliers, getting closer to customers. It’s what I love, and I think it’s what I’m good at.”

He added: “It’s an exciting time to join Morrisons because it has an offer that stands out in the market - with the best fresh food, and the whole vertical integration piece - and a very clear direction.

“It’s assembling a really strong leadership team and it’s making good decisions again, like the Amazon and Ocado deals.

You can really feel it coming together.

“Morrisons was involved in probably the biggest turnaround in this industry but right now, of the big four, Morrisons are in the best place, focused back on the basics, which is as it should be,” added Williams. “They’re very clear it’s about great shopkeeping and making food. The stores are looking really good and I see happy colleagues in the stores. I like to see a business with the lowest prices and happiest colleagues.”