BRC director general Stephen Robertson admits it will be a challenge to fill the "big shoes" of his predecessor Kevin Hawkins.

"Having worked for several of the BRC's major retail members, I've long been an admirer of its work and it's gone from strength-to-strength in recent years," said the former Woolworths marketing director, who will pick up the reins in February.

"Kevin has achieved a great deal for the BRC and its members. His will be big shoes to fill. With customers under pressure and an economic downturn looking likely for 2008 it's certainly a challenging time for retailers, and for me."

However, Robertson, made it clear he intended to carry on Hawkin's campaigning work. "It's going to be more important than ever that the BRC successfully campaigns for a more favourable retail environment and resists the inevitable tax and regulatory threats," he said.

Robertson, who left Woolworths in March after three years, previously held senior roles at B&Q and WH Smith. Prior to this he worked for Mars Inc, Unilever and Alberto-Culver. He is also a non-executive director at Fresca Group, a leading supplier of fresh produce, and a former chairman, and now fellow, of the Marketing Society.

The BRC said Robertson was acknowledged as "one of the UK's top retail marketers".

"We are delighted that someone of Stephen's calibre is joining the BRC. His range of experience will help us to promote the interests of retailers in the challenging times ahead," said BRC chairman Sir Geoff Mulcahy.