People Moves

The Very Group appoints CEO

Desclée has held a number of senior roles at global retail business Delhaize Group between. with responsibility for 750 franchised or affiliated stores in Belgium and Luxembourg and over 1,600 supermarkets on the US East Coast

The Very Group has appointed Lionel Desclée, the former president and CEO of Walmart Japan, as group CEO, effective 19 September 2022. He succeeds Henry Birch who will step down on 24 September 2022 after four and a half years in the role.

Desclée has global experience across digital and both food and non-food omnichannel retail, and he joins from McKinsey and Company where he is a senior advisor. He previously spent three years as president and CEO of Walmart in Japan, where he led a 35,000-strong team at Seiyu, a Japanese supermarket business.

Under his leadership, Seiyu accelerated its move into digital through a joint venture with online retailer Rakuten, secured “record-breaking” colleague engagement, grew customer satisfaction and increased market share. He also led Walmart’s subsequent partial exit from Seiyu to investor KKR and Rakuten.

Before joining Walmart, Desclée spent three years as president and CEO of Tom and Co, which operates over 160 pet care stores in Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

He has also held a number of senior roles at global retail business Delhaize Group between 2005 and 2016, with responsibility for 750 franchised or affiliated stores in Belgium and Luxembourg and over 1,600 supermarkets on the US East Coast.

Additionally, Desclée is a non-executive board member at both Tom and Co and BPost, a Belgian company responsible for the delivery of national and international mail, where he also chairs the company’s strategy committee.

Meanwhile, under Birch’s leadership, The Very Group broke the £2bn-sales mark for the first time in 2020 and, in 2021, delivered “record” revenue and EBITDA.

Desclée said: “I can’t wait to start working with the team to further strengthen the convenience, flexibility and value Very provides, whilst exploring new products and services to support our customers.”

Birch added: “It has been a privilege to lead this amazing and committed team through such an important chapter in the company’s development. As I move onto my next challenge, I am proud of the progress we have made together for our customers and our people. I am confident that under Lionel’s leadership, The Very Group will continue to thrive.”

Dirk Van den Berghe, The Very Group’s chairman, said: “I am confident that Lionel’s collaborative and strategic approach will prove invaluable as The Very Group further develops its proposition, having successfully navigated the pandemic.

“Henry has guided the group superbly over the last four and a half years. He is a dedicated, innovative and people-oriented leader, and he leaves a fantastic legacy.”

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