The British Retail Consortium has begun its search for director general Kevin Hawkins' successor after he announced this week that he was retiring at the end of the year.
The organisation will use a specialist recruitment agency, yet to be appointed, to find a new leader and will be advertising nationally.
Hawkins has led the BRC for three years, during which time he has lobbied the government on issues such as the national minimum wage and retail crime.
Hawkins was previously director of communications at Safeway for nine years.
The BRC said some of his notable achievements included establishing monthly rents as the retail norm, creating a more diverse membership and campaigning against retailers having to provide electrical waste collection points under the WEEE directive.
"The BRC is unlikely to find anyone with the same understanding of the industry's issues," said one industry expert. "They will probably have to look outside the industry."