Coupe to exit as Sainsbury’s plots more senior job cuts

mike coupe1Sainsbury’s has revealed that chief executive Mike Coupe is to step down later this year just hours after it admitted it is slashing hundreds of management roles – including tech and digital posts – as a result of the integration of the Argos team.

Coupe, who joined the business in 2004 as trading director has been chief executive for almost six years. Prior to that he worked at Unilever, Tesco, Dales, Asda and Iceland.

During his tenure, the supermarket has boosted its digital and data operations and snapped up Nectar for a “bargain” price of £60m. Even so, Coupe he will perhaps forever be associated with the cock-up which saw him caught off camera singing “We’re in the money” following the 2016 Argos deal.

However, according to Warwick Business School associate dean John Colley, Coupe’s departure has been on the cards for some time, since the failed merger of Asda and Sainsbury’s.

He explained: “Despite Mike’s protestations to the contrary, the referral to the Competition & Markets Authority was a major distraction for the management at Sainsbury’s. During that period they lost market share and had few initiatives to defend their market position. It was clear their entire focus was on the merger. The cost of that failure was also significant in terms of advisor fees.

“Mike’s other achievement was the purchase of Argos, which has been a mixed blessing. The rationale was to use spare space in the main Sainsbury’s stores, after shrinking their range, to house Argos outlets. However, this has been a costly manoeuvre in terms of closing existing stores, reopening more, and finding that Argos is not that easy to manage either.”

The supermarket’s retail and operations director, Simon Roberts, will succeed Coupe on June 1 on a salary of £875,000. Roberts has previously worked for both Boots and Marks & Spencer.

Coupe said: “I feel very privileged to have spent almost six years running Sainsbury’s, in a period that has been the most challenging and competitive of my 35 year career in retail.

“Sainsbury’s is a very different business today to the one I took over in 2014. I have focused on setting the business up to deal with the strategic challenges of our industry.

“I am proud that almost 20% of our total sales now come from our online channels and that we are becoming one multi brand, multi channel business, able to continue to evolve and adapt with customers’ ever changing needs.”

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s said latest round of cost cutting represented the “finalising” of new management structures and the merging of its store support centre teams and were part of cost savings already announced.

In an update it said: “Since the start of this financial year (March 2019) Sainsbury’s senior leadership team has been reduced by over 20%. Bringing together more teams in commercial, retail, finance, digital, technology and HR will lead to a reduction of hundreds of management roles across the business.”

A spokeswoman said the planned management cuts were part of efforts by the supermarket to try to avoid duplication of roles between Sainsbury’s and Argos.

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