Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe to retire

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Coupe: ‘I have focused on setting the business up to deal with the strategic challenges of our industry’
Coupe: ‘I have focused on setting the business up to deal with the strategic challenges of our industry’

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Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe is to retire later this year, to be succeeded by retail and operations director Simon Roberts, who will take over from 1 June this year.

Coupe has been chief executive officer for six years and has worked at Sainsbury’s for 15 years. He will remain in his current role until the end of May and will stay on as a director from 1 June until the retailer’s annual general meeting (AGM) on 2 July 2020 to support Roberts and ensure an orderly transition, at which point he will retire.

Roberts, 48, who will earn a base salary of £875,000 at the helm of the company, joined Sainsbury’s as retail and operations director in July 2017. He has more than 30 years’ experience in leading major UK retail brands, having spent 15 years at Marks & Spencer and 13 years at Boots, where he became president of Boots UK.

In addition to leading Sainsbury’s retail and logistics operations, he recently took responsibility for Argos’ retail operations as part of the retailer’s continued integration. He led Sainsbury’s industry-leading store operations restructure and digitisation throughout 2018, which is now delivering improved customer satisfaction, market-leading productivity and further investment in value for customers. He is a champion for diversity and inclusion and has enabled a significant transformation in capabilities and leadership across Sainsbury’s operations.

Convenience, online and digital

“Mike’s knowledge and understanding of the retail sector and customer behaviour is second to none,”​ said Sainsbury’s chairman Martin Scicluna. ​Mike has been bold and ambitious on behalf of our shareholders, customers and our colleagues. Investing heavily in convenience, online and our digital capability, selling Sainsbury's pharmacy business and acquiring Argos and Nectar have all been sound strategic moves. These set us up well as we come together to create one multi-brand, multi-channel business for our customers.

​I am delighted to be able to confirm Simon Roberts as Mike’s successor. Simon has been extremely effective during his three years at Sainsbury’s, leading our store teams through great change in that time. Simon is a dedicated, determined and enthusiastic champion of the customer and of our colleagues and has overseen sustained improvements in our competitiveness during his time so far. I would like to congratulate Simon on his appointment; I and the board are looking forward to working closely with him over the coming years.

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. I have focused on setting the business up to deal with the strategic challenges of our industry.

​I am proud that almost 20% of our total sales now come from our online channels and that we are becoming one multi-brand, multi-channel business, able to continue to evolve and adapt with customers​ ever-changing needs. Adding Argos and Nectar to the business improves our ability to make shopping increasingly convenient for customers and to reward them for their loyalty.

‘Difficult decision

​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. Martin and I both believe the business is well set up, with a strong management team and a clear plan for the future. I am delighted that Simon will be the next chief executive and am confident that he is the right choice for our customers, our colleagues and our investors. I will do everything I can to set Simon up for success and will remain committed to Sainsbury​s well beyond my departure.

Roberts said: ​Sainsbury's is led by a highly experienced and committed management team and I am really excited about working together with our 178,000 colleagues to become one multi-brand, multi-channel business.

​I would also like to thank Mike for his leadership of Sainsbury​s over the past six years and for all his support since I joined the business. I have huge admiration for him. He is an outstanding retail leader and I look forward to working closely with him as we hand over in the coming months.

'Challenging period'

Gary Bryant, executive director of strategy at global branding and design agency Landor said: “It’s been a challenging period for Coupe’s Sainsbury’s and today’s announcement will come as little surprise. 

He has built a brand that has taken a significant hit over the last decade with the rise of discounters such as Aldi and Lidl. These discounters have come with new business models and brands that hit all the right notes. The Sainsbury’s business model and brand are now caught in the ‘murky middle’ - squeezed between the discounters and more ‘premium’ supermarkets positioned at the higher end of the market, such as Waitrose and M&S. 

The retailer lacks clear distinction and relevance for the modern shopper – this will be the puzzle Coupe’s successor has to solve.”

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