Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

London — Wal-Mart Stores’ Asda unit has appointed a former Amazon.com finance director to help it turn around its struggling UK business, according to people familiar with the matter.

Rob McWilliam will rejoin Asda as a part-time strategic adviser to new CEO Roger Burnley, said the people, who asked not to be named as the information is private. Burnley, now deputy CEO, steps up to his new role on January 1. McWilliam will initially work just a couple of days a month, although that may be increased in the future, one of the people said.

An Asda spokesperson declined to comment.

Before joining Amazon in 2013, McWilliam worked alongside Burnley at Asda during a 16-year stint at the UK’s third-biggest grocery chain. His tenure culminated in his becoming Wal-Mart’s strategy chief for Europe, the Middle East and Africa after a spell as Asda’s finance director. McWilliam joined Amazon as UK finance director before overseeing the launch of its Pantry service in the UK, according to his LinkedIn profile.

McWilliam will be joining a business that’s under pressure. Asda’s long-held position as the lowest-priced mainstream UK grocer has been undermined by the rapid expansion of discounters Aldi and Lidl, which precipitated a three-year slump in sales. The ensuing price war dragged down Asda’s operating profit by 19% to £845m ($1.1bn) last year.

McWilliam’s experience could benefit Wal-Mart, which is trying to position itself as a rival to e-commerce powerhouse Amazon. The world’s biggest retailer said this week that it’s changing its legal name to Walmart to reinforce its shift from bricks to clicks. It has acquired web merchants such as Bonobos, ModCloth and Moosejaw over the past year to lure new online customers.

Bloomberg

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