It’s taken less than a fortnight for the jobs’ market to explode back into life after the summer break with two significant appointments confirmed within hours of one another earlier this week.
Amazon has appointed vice president of its European fashion division John Boumphrey to lead its UK business, while Booker chief executive Charles Wilson will be replaced by Tesco chief product officer Andrew Yaxley when he retires next year.
While analysts and pundits will be busy combing over Boumphrey’s résumé for clues as to the future for Amazon UK under his leadership, it is on Tesco that I will focus my own attention.
Wilson’s cancer diagnosis two years ago saw him step down as Tesco’s UK and Ireland boss and focus his professional energies on leading the retailer’s wholesale arm Booker. Thankfully, Wilson’s cancer is now in remission and doubtless, a plethora of non-executive roles await him in his retirement if he chooses to share the benefits of his encyclopaedic knowledge.
Yaxley has been climbing the ranks at Tesco for the past two decades and as the man ultimately responsible for supplier relationships is now a key figure in the business. Those relationships are said to be stronger and more equitable now than during Philip Clarke’s ill-fated tenure when Yaxley held various commercial director roles, but that’s not to say he’s afraid of making hard-nosed decisions as has been the case when executing Dave Lewis’s strategy of rationalising Tesco’s range of branded products in order to compete more effectively with the discounters.
Yaxley already has chief executive experience following a three-year spell running Tesco’s Ireland business. Running a multi-billion pound wholesale operation at a time of great flux represents a new challenge, however. While Tesco sales have soared during the pandemic, Booker’s performance has been more polarised with growth in demand from its convenience store customers offset by steep declines in catering. As the food market recalibrates to respond to new customer behaviours Yaxley will need to make the right calls on where to place his big strategic bets.
Another noteworthy promotion is that of Ashwin Prasad to Yaxley’s current role of chief product officer. New Zealander Prasad, who is currently commercial director for packaged food, has been touted as a future successor to incoming chief executive Ken Murphy.
Prasad has impressed senior colleagues in various category director roles with his sharp commercial brain and strong leadership skills and is said to have a keen grasp on the mechanics of the Tesco business.
Like Yaxley, Prasad worked for Mars before making the switch to retail and there seems a high likelihood of him following in the footsteps of fellow alumni such as Allan Leighton and Justin King in one day taking the reins of a big four grocer.