Ex-Aldi CEO Paul Foley has resurfaced at Austrian retail management consultancy CONplementation as one of five senior partners.

In his new role, Foley will focus on the burgeoning multi-channel retail market, examining the online shopping behaviour of European consumers.

It is a radical departure for a man who made his reputation as the UK head of no-frills retailer Aldi, with its wooden pallets instead of shelves and cash payments instead of credit cards.

Foley appears to have embraced all things futuristic since he left the discounter in 2009.

“Smartphones will replace the wallet,” he told www.german-retail-blog.com. Outlining his vision for the future of retail, he said retailers must implement a “fully integrated multi-channel” approach he dubbed ‘clicks & mortar’. Retailers “must leverage the advantages of both channels, as consumers clearly favour this approach,” he added.

Foley also had strong words for some of his former fellow retailers, who he said had taken a half-hearted approach to online retailing. “They tend to believe that simply starting an online shop or making an entry in Facebook or Twitter will do the trick,” he told the blog. “They totally underestimate the extent to which online will change the scenario.”

Foley started out in retail in 1976 before joining Iceland Foods. He rose through the ranks for 12 years before joining Aldi in 1989. Foley was appointed as CEO for the UK and Ireland in 2000.