Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Monday that it will replace outgoing Asda CEO Andy Clarke with Sean Clarke, most recently president/CEO of Wal-Mart China.
Andy Clarke recently hinted that Roger Burnley would be his likely successor, according to the Wall Street Journal. Wal-Mart says Burnely will now be named deputy CEO and take over the role of Asda chief operating officer later this year.
Andy Clarke will stay on at Asda, Britian's third-largest supermarket chain, until the end of the year in an advisory role. He has been with the company for more than 20 years and head of Asda since 2010.
In naming Sean Clarke, Wal-Mart is turning to one of its own veterans to fortify its Asda operations amidst a brutal grocery war going on in Britain. Asda has seen sales fall for seven straight quarterly periods as more shoppers in the U.K. head to rivals like Aldi and Lidl. In competing with these low-cost grocery chains, both Asda and other supermarkets in the country (Sainsbury, Tesco and Morrisons) have been participating in a price war to keep customers from turning online. In October Asda announced a turnaround dubbed "project renewal" which included plans to cut prices, accelerate improvements to its stores and halt plans for "click-and-collect" sites.
Earlier this month Wal-Mart made clear that it would start to play rough in the pricing war, sacrificing profits in a bid to protect market share.
“With the U.S. business recovering, you can expect that we will shift the balance from protecting profit to protecting share,” David Cheesewright, Wal-Mart International CEO told reporters at the company’s annual investor meeting earlier this month, according to the Financial Times.
Earlier this year Amazon said it would also be more assertive in the space, inking a deal with U.K. supermarket Morrisons to offer packaged and fresh and frozen goods and deliver them to customers in as little as an hour. That deal boosts Amazon’s operations in the U.K. and promises to lift Morrisons e-commerce sales, which have lagged behind other U.K. grocery e-commerce.
Sean Clarke has served Wal-Mart in various roles abroad, including in Japan and Canada, after beginning his career with Asda in 1996, the company said in a blog post. He will start his new role at Asda on July 11.
“Rejoining Asda at such a critical point in the development of the UK retail market is both a challenge and a privilege," Sean Clarke said. "After spending the last 15 years in Walmart’s global retail markets, I’m looking forward to returning to the business that got me hooked on grocery retail.”