Quick decision making is a business necessity in the current climate as retailers respond to the evolving coronavirus crisis. New Sainsbury’s boss Simon Roberts has certainly wasted no time in shaking up his top team, marking his first day in the job with a duo of significant promotions.

Chief digital director Clodagh Moriarty adds responsibility for stores to her expanded remit as retail and digital director, while chief marketing officer Mark Given has been granted a seat on the retailer’s operating board.

Moriarty’s promotion, in particular, is an important indicator both of the high regard in which she is held internally and the future direction of Sainsbury’s under Roberts.

Moriarty joined Sainsbury’s a decade ago from consultancy Bain & Company having originally trained as an electrical engineer.

In her previous role she was responsible for creating and leading the retailer’s digital strategy across Sainsbury’s, Argos, its Nectar loyalty scheme and Sainsbury’s Bank.

Moriarty’s imprint is on innovations such as Sainsbury’s one-hour Chop Chop fulfilment proposition; SmartShop, which allows customers to scan items in-store using their smartphones; and most recently the full digitisation of its Nectar loyalty scheme.

Following her promotion, Moriarty will take on additional responsibility for Sainsbury’s and Argos stores – previously held by Roberts – in a move designed to bring Sainsbury’s, Argos and its channels even closer together.

Bringing retail under the leadership of someone with no senior store-level experience looks on paper to be a risky move. Roberts, however, clearly has great faith both in Moriarty’s ability and in the structures that will support her in her new role.

Sainsbury’s already has an excellent, experienced stores team in place meaning Moriarty will be able to look both downwards and upwards for guidance with Roberts himself having spent much of his career running store estates for the likes of Boots and M&S.

Combining roles has been a popular tactic from retailers in recent years as they look to streamline decision making and get closer to the customer. The combination of retail and digital responsibilities is an unusual one, however Roberts made the point in a letter to Sainsbury’s staff of his desire to “create a business that shows up in the same way for customers wherever they shop with us”. It also, of course, has the added bonus of saving the retailer a hefty executive salary from the two roles being split.

Given’s elevation to the board, meanwhile, reflects Roberts’ priority to act with agility to the changing way customers wish to shop. Decisions concerning customer and brand communications can be fast-tracked when the person responsible has a seat at the top table.

Roberts spent his first day as chief executive in listening groups with customers and has pledged to spend more time gathering their feedback in the weeks and months ahead.

Combined with his early appointments, the new boss has made a clear statement that the customer will be king under his leadership.