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Sainsbury’s boss to step down later this year

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe is to step down later this year, less than 12 months after the retailer’s proposed merger with Asda was blocked by the competition authority.

Coupe, who has been at the helm of Sainsbury’s for six years, will retire at the end of May.

The company’s retail and operations director, Simon Roberts, has been appointed Coupe’s successor.

Coupe said: “I feel very privileged to have spent almost six years running Sainsbury’s, in a period that has been the most challenging and competitive of my 35-year career in retail. Sainsbury’s is a very different business today to the one I took over in 2014.

“This has been a very difficult decision for me personally. There is never a good time to move on, but as we and the industry continue to evolve, I believe now is the right time for me to hand over to my successor.”

The announcement comes a day after Sainsbury’s confirmed it was cutting hundreds of management jobs as it continues its integration with Argos.

Coupe was criticised after he was caught singing We’re in the Money when the merger with Asda was announced in 2018.

However, the deal was blocked by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last year over fears it would lead to higher prices for consumers.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “Coupe’s replacement is Simon Roberts who is currently the retail and operations director at Sainsbury’s. With a background at Marks & Spencer and Boots, he will be no stranger to the operational challenges facing large retailers.

“His agenda is likely to focus on getting more out of the existing business rather than finding new things to bolt on.

“At an investor and analyst event last September, Coupe was blunt in saying there is low or no underlying growth in the UK grocery market. He said the business would have to adapt by being more competitive on price and having a better in-store and online experience.

“He also outlined plans to capitalise on the fact that Sainsbury’s has a more affluent customer base than many of its rivals by getting them to spend on areas such as beauty products. It would seem natural for Roberts to continue this strategy rather than trying something radically different.”