After just two years as chief executive of the upmarket Dublin store Brown Thomas, Irishman Dalton Phillips is to become chief operating officer of its sister company, Loblaw.

Loblaw is Canada's biggest grocery group with a turnover of over C$28bn (£12.3bn), more than 1,000 stores and 135,000 staff.

It was named as Food from Britain's International Retailer of the Year in December.

But Phillips' task will be to help steer the Canadian group back to full recovery after a sharp decline in profitability and share price, which has been attributed to a combination of rising competition from Phillips' former employer, Wal-Mart, and also to supply chain problems.

Phillips will be number two to Loblaw executive chairman Galen C. Weston Jr, son of Brown Thomas owner Galen Weston.

A graduate of University College Dublin and Harvard, Phillips has come a long way from his student days, when he collected egg money for the family business. His father, Tim Phillips, ran Ballyfree Farms, an eggs and poultry enterprise in County Wicklow, which is now part of the Kerry Group. After graduating in Dublin, Phillips worked with the Irish Trade Board in Italy before joining Asian retail giant Jardine Matheson.

A study stint at Harvard led to his recruitment by Wal-Mart, where he spent four years working in South America and Germany.

He returned to Ireland in 2005 to take over at Brown Thomas.

"In the short period of two years [Phillips] has made a major contribution to the Brown Thomas business in Ireland," said Galen Weston.

Phillips is to remain a company board member at Brown Thomas, which hit sales of almost €230m last year, and interviews are already under way for his successor.