// Mel Smith will depart Ocado Retail after three years in the top seat
// Smith was instrumental in the online grocer’s joint venture with M&S
Ocado Retail chief executive Melanie Smith CBE is to leave the online grocer after three years at the helm.
Ocado Retail deputy CEO Lawrence Hene will replace Smith on an interim basis.
Smith, who will depart the grocer on 31 August, has been instrumental in forming and growing Ocado’s joint venture with M&S. She was previously strategy director at M&S
Ocado is searching for a permanent successor for Smith.
Smith said: “It has been a privilege to lead the Ocado Retail team over the last three years. In this period, we have successfully established the joint venture as the UK’s best online grocer with outstanding service, introduced M&S Food to online consumers for the first time, and played our part in feeding the nation through the Covid pandemic.
“After three years now is the right time for me to move on to new challenges and I leave behind a strong business, full of energetic, amazing colleagues that have achieved so many great things and I know will take the business onwards to achieve many more.”
Times have been tough of late for Ocado’s retail operation. The retailer reported a sales fall of 8% in the two months to 25 April as the cost-of-living crisis took its toll.
The online grocer warned that its sales growth will be less than half the rate it had hoped for shoppers struggling to make ends meet.
It revised down its expected sales growth of less than 5% for the year to the end of November, compared with 10% anticipated.
M&S CEO Stuart Machin said today: “Mel has been fundamental in establishing our joint venture and the successful switchover to M&S supply. I am grateful for the contribution she has made in this early phase.
“Whilst today’s market conditions are tough for everyone, we believe in the long-term opportunity of our partnership and the substantial further potential in the joint venture.”
Ocado Retail chairman Tim Steiner added: “The last two years have been extremely challenging with a pandemic to contend with affecting the grocery market in ways that we could never have predicted.
“Mel has steered this business through with incredible energy and I would like to thank her for all she has done. There is no question that Mel leaves the business well prepared
for faster growth in the years to come.”
“We will now commence the search for a permanent new CEO to take Ocado Retail through the next steps of our growth as a critical part of the strategy for both Ocado Group and Marks & Spencer.”