Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe quits – can new boss Simon Roberts add some retail flair?

More big changes in Britain’s distressed retail sector, Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe is stepping down in June to be replaced by heir apparent Simon Roberts (below), who formerly ran Boots UK.

Coupe has been on retail’s version of the green mile since his bold bid to merge with Asda was confounded – to no-one’s great surprise except possibly his – by regulators in 2018.

Since then, although Coupe has continued to deliver the numbers for Sainsbury’s, the one-time leading British supermarket has floundered with staff and service cuts dismaying even loyal supporters. Sainsbury’s Christmas numbers weren’t too bad but its signature acquisition Argos fell back, again underlying the point that to succeed in retail against the likes of Aldi and Lidl you need to offer more than deal-making skills.

We wait to see what Roberts makes of it. Boots, too, is good a delivering numbers in a difficult environment but it’s hardly known for retail flair.

Sainsbury’s agency Wieden+Kennedy will be watching Roberts with a degree of apprehension. The last time a CEO of a big retail client quit – Phil Clarke at Tesco – incoming boss Dave Lewis (who’s also about to leave) moved the business to BBH.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.