The supermarket giant says Knight will be replaced internally and her role is likely to be broken up.
“We are in the process of changing our marketing structure as part of a broader business effort to streamline our central operations,” a Sainsbury’s spokeswoman told Marketing Week. “We are recruiting for all current vacancies internally at this stage.”
In January, Sainsbury’s announced it would cut 500 head office staff as part of its plans to cut up to £500m in operating costs over the next three years.
Sainsbury’s said in a statement at the time that “each member of the operating board has been asked to look at their respective divisions in great detail to decide where to reduce costs.” Marketing it now appears is one of the departments set to be streamlined.
Knight’s departure is a high-profile exit for the marketing team as Sainsbury’s has ramped up its own-brand offer over recent years.
Just last year, the retailer said its own-brand ranges, basics and Taste the Difference, were giving it “a clear competitive advantage,” with own-brand growing at over twice the rate of branded goods in both sales and volumes.
In her own statement, Knight she was “excited to join the Kantar Worldpanel team and reinforce its position as the market leader for consumer and retail research.”
Sainsbury’s strategy to cut head office staff follows the recent decision by Tesco’s new boss, Dave Lewis, to close its Cheshunt head office, where 3,000 staff are based, and cut the number of store managers. Asda and Morrisons have also made moves to cut the number of in-store managerial roles.
Much like Tesco, Sainsbury’s has been hit hard by the rise of the discounters after recently suffering its first fall in Christmas sales for more than a decade.
Sainsbury’s festive like-for-like sales fell by 1.7pc in the 14 weeks to January 3, 2014, excluding fuel. Total sales, meanwhile, fell 0.4pc, or 2.5pc including fuel.
The UK’s second biggest supermarket will cut the price of 1,000 products this year, an investment worth £150m, as it prepares to fight back.