In grocery circles, the name Tony Baines is synonymous with Aldi UK. Baines has been a near permanent presence at the discount grocer since it entered the UK market in 1990 and has played a central role in strengthening its buying power and developing close relationships with suppliers.
Next year, after more than 22 years with the business, Baines will retire from his current role as managing director of corporate buying and pass the baton on to another Aldi stalwart, Julie Ashfield.
There will be much goodwill towards Baines in his retirement, not just from Aldi colleagues and suppliers, but from the wider retail sector. As a straightforward, honest trader he exemplifies the values on which Aldi has sought to build its UK business, and he leaves behind a legacy of more than half of Aldi’s total sales now being generated from British-sourced products, not to mention a clutch of supplier-nominated awards as the best grocery retailer to do business with.
The best tribute I can pay Baines as a negotiator is that many supermarkets have been forced to simplify the way they do business with their suppliers, due in part to the transparent nature of Aldi’s dealings.
Baines will no doubt be looking forward to his retirement; but if he wants a quiet life he should be prepared to turn his phone off as there will be plenty of suppliers and retailers keen to mine his knowledge and contacts either as a consultant or a non-executive director.
Baines is not quite done yet and, as invariably seems to be the case with Aldi, there is a seamless succession plan in place with a transition of responsibility from Baines to Ashfield set to take place over the course of 2017.
Ashfield is being promoted from her current role as group buying director and was the obvious candidate to fill Baines’ shoes. She is another Aldi lifer, having joined in 1999, and with her strong track record in buying is well qualified to build on the excellent foundations laid by her predecessor.
As the job market pauses for breath over the festive period, all that remains for me is to thank you for reading my regular column and to wish you a very happy and restful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.