Kwik Save managing director Andrew Villars has left his post after less than three months in the job.

The beleaguered discounter, which has been hit by a spate of availability woes this year, said Villars had left following a programme of investment and restructure, which included the acquisition of 45 stores from Somerfield this week.

Villars joined the Kwik Save team in July, replacing Paul Niklas, who also left his post after less than four months.

Villars was previously director of drink for The Spirit Group, the managed division of Punch Taverns, which owns 9,500 UK pubs.

He had laid out ambitious plans to tackle the discounter's availability problems, which had developed after it was sold to acquisition vehicle Back To The Future in February. The last availability results from Storecheck Marketing at the end of September suggested that he was beginning to make some headway, with average availability in the tobacco gantry rising from 38% to 85%. (The Grocer, 30 September, p6).

However, Nick Gladding, retail analyst at Verdict Research, said the company was far from out of the woods. "The loss of two managing directors in four months is bad news for any company but particularly so for Kwik Save, given the scale of the challenge that

it faces.

"There is so far no real indication that the business has stabilised.

"While the acquisition of the Somerfield stores will strengthen its portfolio, Somerfield will only be selling off its weakest units. The real problem is the strength of competition in the marketplace."

Commercial director David Birchall has taken over as acting MD, for the second time this year, until a replacement for Villars can be found.