Justin King bade farewell yesterday after 10 years as chief executive of Sainsbury’s, reassuring shareholders at the annual meeting in Westminster that the retailer was well equipped for the future and that he was leaving the business “in safe hands”.
His successor Mike Coupe paid tribute, describing King’s “passion” and dedication as an inspiration. Chairman David Tyler also thanked him “for making Sainsbury’s great again”.
“I’m sure of one thing, Justin’s departure doesn’t mean the end of this success story,” Tyler said.
King has overseen nine years of unbroken growth since joining Sainsbury’s in March 2004, bringing in an extra 10m customers through its doors, trebling its profits and delivering a total shareholder return of 85 per cent.
But Sainsbury’s long run of like-for-like growth ended in the final quarter of last year, laying bare the challenges facing the supermarkets from discounters and the shift in shopping habits away from large stores to online and convenience shopping.
It plans to tackle the threat from discounters by launching its own budget chain, announcing its deal last month with Dansk Supermarked to bring back Netto to the UK.
Coupe said the pace of change in the grocery market “would only accelerate” in the years ahead but “the values of our customers and the values of our business will stay the same”.