Debbie Robinson, the former director of food marketing for The Co-operative Group, is to replace long-serving Spar boss Jerry Marwood as managing director, The Grocer can reveal.

Robinson will take over from Marwood in the summer when he is due to step down from the role "to seek new challenges".

Robinson is currently marketing director for struggling retailer JJB Sports a position she has held for just six months.

However, she is best known for her time at The Co-op Group, where she worked from 1987 until she was made redundant in January last year.

At The Co-op she was closely involved in the development of the society's responsible retailing agenda, championed animal welfare issues and was also behind its 'good with food' marketing campaign.

After leaving the society, Robinson worked for buying group Nisa-Today's on a fixed-term contract to ­develop the brand's debut TV advertising campaign before joining JJB Sports.

"Spar is a fantastic business with a regional structure that is ideally suited to today's customer needs," Robinson said. "My priority will be to continue to drive the Spar brand forward, increasing its relevance with customers and developing the offer to drive sales and profits."

Marwood added: "I am very confident that Debbie will be an excellent contributor to the business. Our retail estate is growing and our Spar retailers are positive about their prospects and still continue to invest locally."

Robinson has big shoes to fill as MD of Spar UK. Marwood was MD for nine years and has worked at Spar for 15 years. When his departure was announced in November last year, wholesale rivals described him as "a real honest gent" and "a big asset to our ­sector".

Robinson joins Spar as it braces itself for consolidation among its six wholesale members. Last month, Capper & Co revealed it was in merger talks with a fellow Spar wholesaler, widely believed to be Blakemore.

Read more
Search underway to follow “great” Jerry (Convenience Store; 26 November 2010)
Marwood to leave Spar MD role next summer (20 November 2010)