Tesco brings home director in bid to fight off its rivals

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The Independent Online

Tesco has brought another high-flying director back to the UK from its overseas operations, in a further sign of the grocery giant's determination to fight back against the challenge from its domestic rivals.

Tony Hoggett, the chief operating officer in Turkey, where it runs the Kipa chain, has been appointed as managing director of Tesco's superstores format in the UK. The grocer operates 460 superstores, which are its standard supermarkets that are smaller than its Extra hypermarkets.

The new role for Mr Hoggett has, in part, been created by the decision of David Woodfield, the long-serving operations director of Tesco's superstores in the south, to retire.

Mr Hoggett is the latest in a long line of Tesco management to come back to the UK since Philip Clarke took over as chief executive in March, following the retirement of Sir Terry Leahy. Most of the overseas roles have already been filled.

On 2 May, Michael Fleming, the former chief executive of Tesco Japan, took the new UK-based role of group strategy director.

Among others, Bob Robbins, the chief executive of its central and eastern European business, and Per Bank, who ran Tesco's Hungarian unit, both returned to take their seats on the newly created UK board in January. Ken Towle, former chief executive of Tesco's China business, also came back to become the group director of internet retailing in March.

Tesco, which has operations in 14 countries, delivered an 11.3 per cent uplift in pre-tax profits to £3.54bn for the year to 26 February, on sales up 8.1 per cent to £67.6bn.

Upon unveiling its results in April, Mr Clarke said its UK business "can do better," although he was most critical of certain non-food categories.

Mr Clarke said that while the non-food market had "softened", the grocer created its own difficulties on clothing and homewares. "Our clothing assortment was not quite right. It did not sell as well as we hoped," he said.

While Tesco's profits dwarf its big three rivals, the market leader's UK underlying sales have often lagged behind Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury's over recent years. But for much of 2011 there has been little difference in their growth levels.

In a further changing of the guard at Tesco, Sir Richard Broadbent, Barclays' deputy chairman, will replace David Reid as chairman of the grocery giant in November.