Debbie Robinson officially took up the reins as MD of Spar UK this week.

Speaking exclusively to The Grocer, the former Co-op food marketing director said it was an exciting time to be back in food retail.

"The convenience sector is in great shape. It's certainly growing ahead of the market, and of course new entrants including Little Waitrose and Morrisons Local are raising the game again," she said.

Robinson said she was spending her first days at Spar's HQ in Harrow, visiting member wholesalers and meeting key suppliers and retailers. "I'm in stores all the time. My passion is for retailing and the consumer," she added. "Spar is a fantastic entrepreneurial business and it's ideally suited to meeting the customer's desires to shop locally and support their local community."

Robinson joined Spar from JJB Sport, where she worked as marketing director for six months before landing the role at the top of Spar in March. She had previously worked at The Co-op Group for 13 years until her post as director of food retail marketing was made redundant.

There has also been a changing of the guard on the Spar food distributors board, with Peter Blakemore stepping down as chairman after 20 years in the role. Martin Agnew, joint MD of Henderson Group, has become the new chairman.

"Spar is radically changing as an organisation in order to meet the needs of our retailers in the future," said Agnew. "We are working on exciting strategies to develop the Spar business and I look forward to the challenge of guiding the strategic thinking of Spar."