Sean Clarke

Sean Clarke

Considering its rollercoaster ride over the past few months, it’s fitting that Asda chose a day of leadership turmoil to greet its new boss.

New CEO Sean Clarke, who is being parachuted in to take over from namesake Andy after doing stellar things for Walmart in China, may not have quite as much on his plate as Theresa May, but as inboxes go, his is still going to be pretty full.

Talk in the past few days has returned to speculation on whether Clarke’s first action could be to reach for the nuclear codes and try to blow Asda’s rivals out of the water on price.

Last week, HSBC analyst Dave McCarthy claimed supermarkets were facing their very own Defcon 1, with Asda, he predicted, poised to unleash an offensive that could “wipe out almost all industry profitability”.

That didn’t stop McCarthy urging Asda to push the button, though, and surely events of the past few weeks have taught us to expect nothing if not the extreme.

A fully fledged price war, on top of the impact of Brexit, will surely have supermarket shareholders running for the bunkers, although perhaps all those predicting an inevitable return to food price inflation may also have to think again.

Other analysts are less convinced the new man at the helm will, to steal one of his rival’s soubriquets, turn out to quite be so drastic.

Steve Dresser, director at Grocery Insight, says there is far more than just price to worry about for Clarke, including the huge task of improving store standards to give customers a “compelling reason” to choose Asda.

“I don’t feel price investment will do much on its own,” says Dresser. “It may help secondary footfall, but there is a lot more than just price to resolve, with consumer confidence dropping - things will get tighter in store and it’s about keeping the customers away from discounters.”

Indeed, The Grocer set out those key challenges only recently, in an in-depth look at the factors behind Asda’s current malaise.

Those challenges remain much the same today, as the new boss gets his feet under the table at Asda House – except, of course, Clarke mark 2 will also have to contend with the fallout of Brexit now. It won’t be an easy ride.