Very Announces New Group CEO

The group itselfoperator of multi-category digital retailers Very and Littlewoods, has named former Walmart Japan chairman and CEO Lionel Desclée as group CEO.

He will join on September 19. The group’s current CEO, Henry Birch, will step down on September 24, after four and a half years in the role.

Lionel will join The Very Group from McKinsey & Company, where he is senior advisor. Previously, he spent three years as President and CEO of Walmart Japan, where he led a team of 35,000 people at Seiyu, the Japanese supermarket company with a significant food and non-food presence. Under Lionel’s leadership, Seiyu accelerated its digital shift through a joint venture with online retailer Rakuten, achieved record engagement from colleagues, increased customer satisfaction and increased market share. He directed Walmart’s subsequent partial exit from Seiyu to investor KKR and Rakuten.

Prior to joining Walmart, Lionel spent three years as Chairman and CEO of Tom & Co, which operates over 160 pet care stores in Belgium, Luxembourg and France. After leading the management buy-out of Delhaize Group’s business, Lionel increased the company’s digital offering, improved profitability and launched new store concepts.

Between 2005 and 2016, Lionel held several management positions within the global distribution group Delhaize, with responsibility for 750 franchised or affiliated stores in Belgium and Luxembourg, and more than 1,600 supermarkets on the east coast of the United States. . In the United States, he also led finance and business planning for six retail brands, including Food Lion, Hannaford and Bottom Dollar Food.

Lionel is a non-executive member of the board of directors of Tom & Co and of BPost, the Belgian company responsible for the delivery of national and international mail, where he also chairs the company’s strategic committee. Originally from Belgium, Lionel is fluent in English, French and Dutch.

Under Henry Birch’s leadership, The Very Group crossed the £2 billion mark for the first time in 2020 and in 2021 achieved record revenue and EBITDA. Having joined the group in 2018, Henry has helped transform the group, including implementing rebranding, launching its highly automated fulfillment center in the East Midlands, making its AI-powered chatbot the most popular customer service channel and navigating the pandemic. This resulted in The Very Group being named Best Retailer of the Year (over £250m) and Best Workplace at the Retail Week Awards 2022.

Lionel said: “I am delighted to be appointed CEO of The Very Group. The company has a rich history of transformation and an even more exciting future supporting families in the UK and Ireland with amazing brands, flexible payment options and a simple customer experience. I look forward to beginning to work with the team to further enhance the convenience, flexibility and value that Very provides, while exploring new products and services to support our customers.

Henry comments: “It has been a privilege to lead this wonderful and committed team through such an important chapter in the development of the business. As I move on to my next challenge, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made together for our customers and associates. I am confident that under Lionel’s leadership, The Very Group will continue to thrive for years to come.

Dirk Van den Berghe, President of The Very Group, added: “Lionel is a highly respected leader with extensive global experience in digital omnichannel and food and non-food retail. He has a proven track record of driving growth through transformation and operational excellence, developing and coaching world-class teams, and helping businesses become even more customer-centric. I am confident that Lionel’s collaborative and strategic approach will prove invaluable as The Very Group further develops its proposition, having successfully weathered the pandemic.

“Henry has guided the group superbly over the past four and a half years. He is a dedicated, innovative and people-oriented leader, and he leaves a fantastic legacy. When he takes on his next challenge later this year, it will be with our best wishes.

About Gertrude H. Kerr

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