The Co-operative Group has announced the appointment of Guy McCracken as chief executive of food retail.

He takes over from Eoin McGettigan who has accepted a senior position, outside of the UK, with a major European retailer, it said.

McCracken is a former joint managing director of Marks and Spencer with over 25 years experience of retailing and is also a former chairman of Duchy Originals Ltd. He is currently a director of the McCracken Rowe Consultancy, a specialist food and retail consultancy and a non-executive director of the food manufacturer Glisten plc. He will join the group on the 23 May, reporting to group chief executive, Martin Beaumont and will be relinquishing his current directorships.

"Guy is a very experienced retailer with a strong track record in brand development, building organisation effectiveness and cost management," said Martin Beaumont. "These will be key to addressing the issues currently facing our food retail business. I am delighted to welcome him to the group."

"The Co-op is the UK's leading convenience store operator and one of the best known brands in retailing," Mr McCracken said. "My first priority is to lead the group's food retail recovery programme in a challenging and competitive food retail environment, so that we can regain our sales and profit momentum."

Outgoing chief executive Eoin McGettigan, who took up the post in February said, "this has been an extremely difficult decision for me to make; and, it saddens me to be leaving the Co-operative Group. During my time heading up food retail I have been struck by the enormous potential of this brand and the commitment of the Group's management team to overcoming the business' short-term difficulties. I'm only sorry I won't be part of it."

"It is understandable that the Co-operative Group feels the need to announce my successor now, but, unfortunately, due to internal processes at my new employment, I am not yet able to confirm the name of the company that approached me or the nature of my new role," he said. "It goes without saying, however, that for me personally, and of course my family, it represents an opportunity I just couldn't turn down."