The appointment of Murray – whom Asda has described as a man with an “enviable reputation as a global retail marketing expert” – is a direct replacement for Williams.
Asda, which is due to update the market on its Christmas trading later this month, saw like-for-like sales fall 4.5% in the three months to the end of September, marking its fifth consecutive quarter of falling revenue.
To help it return to growth, Asda’s chief executive Andy Clarke is rolling out Project Renewal this year, with the supermarket using the 18-month drive to introduce further price cuts on everyday items.
It will also accelerate improvements to 95 of its biggest branches while slowing the expansion of smaller outlets into London.
“Implementing Project Renewal needs the right leadership team to steer Asda through the rapid, permanent shift that is taking place in this market while fundamentally changing how we do business,” says Clarke.
“It is in this context that I am delighted to welcome Andy Murray to Asda as our chief customer officer. His deep understanding of global retail trends, creative marketing and customers’ shopping habits will bring a new dimension to our strategy to overhaul our offer, merchandising and value proposition and transform all of our stores, starting with the largest 95 stores.”
Clarke paid tribute to Williams, saying he had done a “fantastic job focusing our marketing”.
However Williams was never a marketer by trade and prior to taking the chief customer officer job had held various pricing and food supply chain roles.
Speaking to Marketing Week last September, Williams admitted the retailer’s poor performance was taking its toll.
He said at the time: “The responsibility I now feel more than before is deciding on the direction of the Asda brand and where we need to be heading as a business. It can really weigh on you and is taking some time.”
Murray, who is currently senior VP of creative and customer experience at Asda’s parent company Walmart, fits with Asda’s policy of hiring from within.
Asda saw its sales fall 3.8% for the 12 weeks ending 31 January, according to the latest data from Kantar Worldpanel. Its market share fell 0.7 percentage points to 16.2% for the period, putting it behind Sainsbury’s as the UK’s third biggest supermarket.
In comparison, Sainsbury’s increased its sales for the sixth period in row, growing by 0.6% while also Tesco showed signs of improvement. Tesco, despite seeing sales fall by 1.6%, posted its best Kantar numbers since September 2015.