Asda’s new boss will need to turn around the brand, not just its sales

Asda’s CEO Andy Clarke is standing down to make way for the boss of parent company Walmart’s China operations as it looks to turn around declining sales and consumer perceptions of the brand.

Sean Clarke will take over on 11 July. Most recently CEO at Walmart China he actually started his retail career at Asda back in 1996. He then went on to hold a number of global roles, including as COO in China where he was responsible for marketing, as well as merchandising, operations and supply chain.

Asda has had a difficult year as the continued success of the discounters Aldi and Lidl and the resurgence of Morrisons and Tesco ate into its sales. Like-for-like sales fell by 5.8% over the Christmas 2015 quarter, its worst performance in history. Clarke called that Asda’s “nadir” but results were even worse the following quarter and have struggled ever since.

Yet it is not just Asda’s sales that need a jumpstart. Its brand is also on the decline.

According to YouGov BrandIndex, its ‘Index’ score – a measure of a range of consumer perception metrics including quality, value and reputation – fell by a statistically significant 2.8 points to 13.7, putting it ninth in a list of the top UK grocers behind all its big four rivals as well as Lidl, Aldi, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose.

Its ‘Buzz’ ranking – a measure of the positive and negative things said about the brand – was down by 4.2 points, again statistically significant. Even its value ranking, where Asda has typically outperformed, has suffered, falling by 4.7 points.

Sean Clarke has been tasked with “repositioning” the business in a “very competitive market place”. That will involve a big investment in price to maintain its market share. But it will also need to look at the brand and what it stands for – something that has become lost in the price war.

Current CEO Andy Clarke will remain as an advisor at Asda until the end of 2016. Asda will need him to pass on his expertise in running a UK grocer. Sean Clarke will also be helped by the imminent arrival of Roger Burnley from Sainsbury’s.

He was hired as COO last year but has had to see out his 12-month notice period. He will now take on the role of deputy CEO as well.

David Cheesewright, CEO of Walmart International, says, “Actively managing our global business portfolio is a key element of our international strategy, and we must have the right talent in place to lead our businesses through times of change.

“Sean is one of our most experienced global executives, and through his leadership we will build upon the momentum of Project Renewal to reposition Asda in a very competitive market place.  I’m also excited about Roger coming back to Asda, as we view him as a top talent and a future CEO.

“Together with the existing Asda executive team, Sean and Roger will serve as an incredibly powerful team to lead our Asda business. Their complementary skills and combined expertise in the U.K. retail market and globally brings an unrivaled breadth of retail knowledge to Asda.”

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here