The UK’s fifth largest supermarket retailer, Somerfield, has announced that company CEO Alan Smith is to step down and John von Spreckelsen is to take sole responsibility for leading the executive team.

The directors and CEO have mutually concluded that this will provide greater clarity of leadership in the future. Smith has, accordingly, agreed to step down from his role as chief executive to pursue other long held business ambitions outside the group. The change, which is to take immediate effect, come only a few days after the company’s finance director announced his decision to resign.

Somerfield’s board has reviewed the current market conditions which have worsened as a consequence of lower market growth and material deflationary pressure.

Somerfield’s operating profit for the year to date is at a similar level to last year and, on the assumption that market conditions remain unchanged, the board estimates that operating profit for the full year is likely to be similar to last year’s level.

The capital expenditure programme focusing on the refits of Somerfield stores, supply chain and IT systems investments will continue as budgeted. The company says that early results from new concept stores for Kwik Save are encouraging.

In the first seven weeks of the second quarter group like-for-like sales were plus 1.7% against minus 0.3% for the first quarter. The next trading statement providing full details of second quarter sales will be released in the second half of November.

Shares in the supermarket chain dropped more than 40% in response to the company’s latest problems, reported BBC online.