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Scots ally Clarke confirms departure from Asda

Andy ClarkeAndy Clarke, who has been a big ally of the Scottish food and drink industry, has confirmed his departure as chief executive of Asda.

He will be replaced by Sean Clarke (no relation), the head of US owner Walmart’s Chinese operations, rather than incoming Sainsbury’s executive Roger Burnley, as expected.

Mr Clarke’s departure follows seven consecutive quarters of falling sales, but his departure will be regretted in Scotland where he has built a close relationship with the food and drink sector. He began his career at the supermarket chain’s store at The Jewel in Edinburgh.

Asda is Scotland’s second biggest food retailer, with about 60 large stores and an 18 per cent market share. In January the company launched six-month training and development programme with the Scotland Food and Drink organisation to boost Scottish suppliers.

The Scotland Supplier Development Academy was the third programme set up by Asda and was backed by a £40,000 grant from the Scottish government. It involved more than 30 suppliers including Graham’s The Family Dairy, Malcolm Allan, Stoats and Thistly Cross Cider.

Participants in the last programme enjoyed a £12 million boost to their sales. It was launched by former Rural Afffairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Asda was a main sponsor of the recent Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Award.

He has served the company for 20 years, the last six as CEO which has been a challenging period for the big four. Pressure has mounted from the discounters and there is a new rival in the shape of Amazon which is entering the grocery market.

Asda, however, has struggled more than most to meet the challenge. The company posted its worst sales performance in its history earlier this year while the others have shown signs of turning the corner.

Mr Clarke will take on an advisory role until the end of the year when he will leave the business.

Sean Clarke, who has held top roles for Walmart in Japan and Canada, began his career at Asda in 2001 and will become chief executive on 11 July.

Mr Burnley will join in October as deputy chief executive and chief operating officer. He worked at Asda between 1996 and 2002 and was a key player in integrating the business with Walmart after the US firm acquired it in 1999.


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