Asda FD appointed as number two

ASDA has appointed its respected finance director Judith McKenna as chief operating officer, filling the gap left by Simon King who quit last month after just six months in the role.

Ms McKenna, who joined Leeds-based Asda over 15 years ago, has led Asda’s finance functions since 2001.

As chief operating officer she will take charge of all Asda’s retail operations, including its stores, distribution network and IT systems. The chief operating officer’s role is seen as number two to the chief executive.

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Asda’s president and chief executive Andy Clarke said: “In the last year alone Judith’s work leading the Netto acquisition and integration programme, which is reinventing our retail future, demonstrates that she’s the natural choice for this role.

“She also represents someone who lives Asda’s culture everyday. Her understanding of our business, her passion for people development, her down-to-earth style and ability to get things done, will all contribute to ensuring she is a great chief operating officer.”

Ms McKenna will take on the new role in September, following a planned extended summer break with her family.

She joined Asda from a number of financial roles in the brewing and pub retailing industry, working with Allied Domecq and Carlsberg Tetley, after qualifying as a chartered accountant with KPMG in London.

She is currently chair of the CBI’s distributive trades panel.

Dave McCarthy, analyst at Evolution Securities, welcomed the appointment: “This is a good move by Asda Wal-Mart and will help bring stability to the company in a difficult time for the industry.”

He added that the appointment is a natural move for both Asda and Ms McKenna.

“Judith has a very good reputation in the industry and is well respected across the trade, although she is not that well known by the financial community given that Asda is not a quoted company.

“She is very firm, very disciplined and runs a very tight financial ship.

“She is well experienced in most aspects of retail, inspires loyalty from her staff and has a good reputation for people development.”

He added that she also has an excellent understanding of retail strategy and the issues facing the sector.

Asda will be hoping the appointment will end the recent revolving door scenario at the supermarket chain. Earlier this week Asda lost another key player with the surprise departure of marketing director Jon Owen.

Mr Owen quit after only a year in the job to become director of Shop Direct Group’s flagship brand Very. He took over as Asda’s marketing director from Mark Sinnock, who only spent 15 months in the role.

Ms McKenna’s predecessor Mr King left last month by “mutual consent”.

Earlier this week Ms McKenna said UK consumers are in recession, with less money to spend, fears of losing their jobs and worries about rising interest rates.

She told the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit on Tuesday that the retail outlook is tough because of the squeeze on people’s incomes and fear of the future.

“Do I expect it to improve any time soon? No I don’t,” she said.

Ms McKenna said the grocery group’s income tracker showed people currently had £14 less in their pockets year on year.

“It is a really biting effect on how people are shopping and spending, particularly in the area of discretionary spending.”

Two years ago, when the economy was suffering badly, consumers were just as worried but didn’t actually see their spending power squeezed.

Ms McKenna said the difference now is that consumers physically have less money.

“I do think the consumer is in recession,” she said. “How long for is difficult to call.

“People have changed their shopping habits as well. They have started to ration their behaviour about how they spend and what they spend it on.”