Richard Brasher, UK CEO of grocery giant Tesco, is to leave the retailer which he has served since 1986 in July this year, it has been confirmed today.
Exactly eight years after becoming a director of the global business, the retail veteran has stepped down from the Tesco board with immediate effect and will see his responsibilities pass on to current group CEO Philip Clarke after a formal handover process.
Tesco has been suffering in its main UK market over the last six months; losing market share and seeing sales fall, and it is understood that Clarke’s decision to take a more hands-on approach to domestic operations has led to Brasher’s decision to exit.
Brasher was appointed to the position only a year ago as part of Clarke’s shake-up of Tesco’s UK operations which coincided with his ascension to the top job at the firm following previous group CEO Terry Leahy’s departure.
Clarke commented on the news: “I have decided to assume responsibility as the CEO of our UK business at this very important time. This greater focus will allow me to oversee the improvements that are so important for customers.
“I completely understand why Richard has decided to leave and want to thank him for the great contribution he has made over many years.
“The depth of management at Tesco and the strong leadership team across the group allow me to take a more active role in the UK whilst our other businesses continue to grow.”
Tesco’s ‘Big Price Drop’ promotion was less successful than competitors’ schemes over the important Christmas period, leading to the retailer’s like-for-like sales dropping 2.3 per cent in the six weeks to January 7th 2012, and Clarke has subsequently talked about needing to improve its offer in the UK.
Although Clarke may be presenting today’s move as way for him to personally steady the ship, many will worry that with so many challenges facing UK retailing at present he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
Matt Piner, Lead Consultant at retail analyst firm Conlumino, commented: “With Philip Clarke’s reputation on the line he has decided to step in himself to attempt to turn the business around.
“The focus on price may be a suitable tactic for fighting fires, but if Tesco is to regain the momentum that made it the UK’s dominant force it needs to re-engage with the customer, improve the shopping experience and restore its broad appeal – not just become a giant discounter.
“Tesco’s handling of the departure is also questionable and gives the impression of a company in crisis, stumbling from one problem to the next. While this may not reflect the true reality, it does make Tesco look as if it is on the back foot.”
Before becoming UK CEO, Brasher was Commercial & Marketing Director for Tesco and during the last decade was heavily involved with the businesses Clubcard scheme, its non-food operations, and its international sourcing.
Clarke added: “Brasher will leave behind a UK business which has very strong plans for improvement, and over the last two months these plans are beginning to show progress, in line with our expectations.
“I am more determined than ever that these improvements in the UK will result in a better Tesco and an even better shopping trip for customers.”