AO World boss replaced by founder with 'immediate effect'

John Roberts with Steve Caunce Image copyright AO World
Image caption John Roberts with Steve Caunce

The boss of AO World is stepping down from the online electrical goods retailer after two years in the role.

Steve Caunce will leave with "immediate effect" and is being replaced by founder John Roberts.

AO World said that Mr Caunce, who has been with the business for 13 years, decided "to step back to a less demanding business role and re-balance his lifestyle".

The Bolton-based firm has been facing tough trading conditions.

AO, which sells domestic appliances such as fridges and cookers, reported a first-half loss in November and weaker sales growth after being hit by lower consumer spending in Britain.

Retail analyst Nick Bubb told the BBC: "It's always hard in these situations to know if the CEO jumped or was pushed, but on the face of it the move is very friendly: Steve Caunce was a bit stressed out with the job and John Roberts, the backseat driver, fancied taking the wheel again."

Mr Roberts, who founded the firm after a bet in a pub, stepped down as chief executive in 2017 after 17 years at the helm.

At the time he denied his departure was a "fait accompli" and said Mr Caunce had been running the business on a day-to-day basis "for some time".

In a statement on Thursday, he said Mr Caunce had played a vital role in AO's development, "creating the foundations for future success".

"I can't wait to get stuck in again as CEO as we move onto the next exciting stage of the AO story," he added.

UK retailers have been facing a tough climate for some time with shoppers remaining cautious amid economic uncertainty. A recent survey from the Confederation of British Industry indicated UK retail sales stagnated in January after a sharp fall in December.

"Pressures on the retail sector remain high, with consumer spending expected to remain fairly subdued and competition fierce," Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI's chief economist, said last week.

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