Waitrose’s appointment of the Co-op’s Tina Mitchell as its new retail director is significant for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it marks the first time Waitrose has recruited the important role from outside of the partnership having historically promoted from within.
It’s also one of the grocery industry’s most coveted positions, setting the shop strategy for the retailer with arguably the most premium positioning among mainstream supermarket chains.
It’s no surprise to me that Mitchell has beaten the competition to land the role. She’s a high-calibre candidate whose strengths include the ability to build strong relationships with colleagues based on mutual trust and respect.
Mitchell has spent large parts of her career running retail operations for retailers Selfridges, Tesco and now the Co-op. It would be wrong, however, to pigeonhole her. Mitchell is an extremely rounded candidate with experience of a variety of functional roles across both c-stores and large formats and spanning both clicks and bricks.
She is especially strong on strategy and planning. As Tesco’s head of convenience development she was responsible for developing next generation convenience concepts across the UK, Central Europe and Asia.
Mitchell also has experience of leading large teams of up to 14,000 people as divisional managing director for Co-op’s central division – her current role.
She’s hugely people-focused, a quality borne out by her winning the prestigious Barclaycard Everywoman Executive Leader Award in 2018.
Mitchell is well respected across the industry. She doesn’t burn her bridges and has the ability to build trust both within her own teams and with colleagues across different functions.
She also has a strong set of values which she refuses to compromise on – another characteristic that makes her a good fit for Waitrose’s partnership model having enjoyed the experience of working in a cooperative.
Mitchell is a big loss to the Co-op but she has stayed for at least five years at every retailer she has worked for and it’s the right time in her career to take the next step with Waitrose.
Importantly, she is a good fit with Waitrose chief executive James Bailey and I understand the two have already formed an excellent relationship ahead of Mitchell’s arrival in November.
Bailey wants to put world class service at the centre of Waitrose’s vision and make it the ultimate destination for food and drink. There will be challenges, of course, as grocers adapt to the new post-pandemic consumer landscape, but I expect Mitchell to succeed in her role and solidify her profile as a future CEO in waiting.