Delhaize Group CEO Pierre-Olivier Beckers has said it is the “right time” for him to step down as chief executive and insisted the retailer will benefit from “new thinking” and a “fresh pair of eyes”.

The chief executive this morning (8 May) revealed he plans to retire after 15 years at the helm of the supermarket group.

Beckers, who joined Delhaize in 1983, will continue to serve as a company director. He has been a director with the Belgian retailer since 1995 and was appointed president and CEO in 1999. He will stay in his post until a new CEO is appointed, which Delhaize expects will be by the end of 2013.

Speaking after the announcement, Beckers said he and the board had agreed that “now [was] the right time to start searching for a successor”.

“After a challenging few years, the company is now rebuilding good momentum, we are moving in the right direction and the stock price has responded well. And so now is the right time to start looking for a person who will bring new thinking, a fresh pair of eyes on the business and who will lead this company for many years as we execute our strategy.”

Beckers said a process to identify a successor was under way and the company expected a “smooth and orderly transition” to be completed by the end of this year.

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“In the meantime, I stay fully committed to run the business, to lead the company, to serve our customers and support each and everyone of our 150,000 associates. I will work with the board to ensure we have a smooth transition,” he said.

The move comes as a revamp of Delhaize’s US Food Lion chain is gaining momentum. The banner has faced pressure in the competitive US market, which forced the retailer to reposition the chain.

In a separate announcement today, the company said it has had a “strong” first quarter driven by positive revenue growth and profitability at Delhaize America and Delhaize Belgium. Beckers added the Food Lion’s repositioned stores continue to “perform well”.

Underlying US operating profit increased by 14.1% to $197m in the period, while revenues in the market were up 1% to $4.7bn.

“We started the year, 2013 on the right foot,” Beckers said. “Our organic growth accelerated to 3.8% in this quarter, in particular I was pleased with the same stores sales in the US with growth at both Food Lion and Hannaford.”

He added: “Belgium also had a good quarter and provided a good improvement in volumes. In Eastern Europe was not as good in this quarter as I would have expected but overall I was pleased with SG&A control by all our banners.”

Delhaize’s share price was up 2.86% to EUR49.55 at 11:40 CET today.