The highly-regarded Leighton will replace John Mills, who has been in the role for six years and will now become deputy chairman.
Once described as the best-connected man in the business world, Leighton said he wanted to go plural after leaving Asda in 2000 and is currently chairman of retailer Office and Danish jewellery company Pandora. Last month he also joined the board of ready meal-maker Bigham’s as a non-executive director.
Commenting on his appointment yesterday he said: “I am very excited about this opportunity; Matalan is a great company with a strong brand and management team.”
The news came as the retailer posted a 4.1 per cent rise in sales £269.2m in the 13 weeks to 25 August on earnings of £17.3m compared with £13.6m last year. It has guided towards a full-year profit range of £95m to £105m.
Matalan recently started trialling its click and collect scheme in stores across Scotland ahead of a national rollout next year as part of the group’s plans to step up its multi-channel operations.