Andy Clarke, Asda

Andy Clarke started out on the shop floor before moving into management

The most effective supermarket CEOs would have started on the shop floor, according to Asda president Andy Clarke.

Speaking at the British Retail Consortium’s annual Future Leader lecture last night, the Asda boss also talked about the importance of mentoring for young people entering retail, revealing he still regularly seeks advice from former Asda chief executives Allan Leighton and Archie Norman.

“I was in my 20s when I first became a store manager and that experience of understanding the customer and running a till have honestly made me a much more effective leader,” said Clarke, who first took a role as store manager with Morrisons in 1984 before joining Asda in 1992 as manager of its Edinburgh store. 

“To succeed in retail you have to plan for the future and not get weighed down by short-term goals, which is why we recently announced our five-year strategy.”

Clarke also admitted he would now consider people in their early 20s for senior positions. However, the Asda boss won’t be hanging up his retail boots like Sainsbury’s counterpart Justin King anytime soon, insisting that there is still “plenty of life” left in his role as Asda president and CEO.

Separately, Asda said this week that 33 Scottish food and drink companies, including Asda suppliers Mackies and Graham’s Dairies, had benefitted from an additional £7m in sales following their participation in the retailer’s Supplier Development Academy – a collaboration with Scotland Food & Drink and the Scottish government.