Halfords poaches Wal-Mart high-flyer

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Halfords has poached the supermarket veteran David Wild from Wal-Mart to be the chief executive of the car accessories-to-bike retailer and spearhead its growth in the UK and overseas.

Mr Wild, who is currently senior vice-president for new business development at Wal-Mart, will join Halfords from 4 August. He was also managing director of Wal-Mart Germany.

Before he joined Wal-Mart in 2004, Mr Wild spent 18 years at Tesco, where his last role was supply chain director. Before that, he spent six year's focused on Tesco's continental expansion, both as chief executive of central Europe and as European corporate development director.

Greg Lawless, an analyst at Blue Oar, said: "This is a strong appointment and we highlight David's extensive central Europe experience, which will benefit Halfords as they look at new markets and rolling out their store trial in the Czech republic."

Halfords opened three stores in the Czech republic last year and plans to open its first store in Poland later this year. The retailer has said that it is also considering launching in Slovakia and Hungary.

The retail headhunter The Miles Partnership handled the search on behalf of Halfords.

At Wal-Mart, Mr Wild helped the world's largest retailer to develop its Marketside stores, which are much smaller than its standard hypermarkets, in response to Tesco's launch of the Fresh & Easy convenience store chain in the US.

Halfords chairman Richard Pym said Mr Wild "brings over 20 years' retailing experience, gained at two world-leading businesses, and clearly has the skills and ability to move the company forward".

Mr Wild replaces former Halfords chief executive Ian McCleod, who joined the Australian grocer Coles in May.

It is understood that Halfords considered internal candidates director of trading Paul McClenaghan and finance director Nick Wharton for the top job before choosing Mr Wild.

Mr Wild said: "Halfords has some very attractive market positions and exciting opportunities for continued growth as well as sound defensive qualities."

For the year to 28 March, Halfords posted profit before tax up 11.5 per cent to £90.2m and total sales up 7.2 per cent to £797.4m.

Shore Capital analyst John Stevenson said Halfords has been "conservative" to date in backing opportunities with growth potential, such as in central Europe and the roll-out of its upmarket bike stores, Bikehut. Halfords plans to expand the roll-out of Bikehut, of which it has five trading.