Debbie Robinson is stepping down as Spar’s managing director to take the helm of the Central England Co-operative, after current chief executive Martyn Cheatle retires in May 2019.

Robinson, who has been Spar’s UK managing director since 2011, has a strong background in retail, having also worked for the Co-op Group, Marks & Spencer and WHSmith among others.

In her new role as chief executive at Central England Co-operative she will be responsible for “developing the strategic and commercial direction,” of the society, which has more than 400 trading outlets across 16 counties.

Central England Co-operative said it had undertaken “a major recruitment process” to find the person needed to grow it.

Society president, Elaine Dean, said: “Central England Co-operative is delighted to welcome Debbie Robinson at a time of growth and development for our society.

“Debbie is no stranger to co-operative ethics and values, having previous experience at a senior level within the co-operative movement. She has a sound track record of success and is highly respected in the retail sector.”

“This is the first time in the Society’s history that we have had a female chief executive and the board is confident in her ability to take us forward as a dynamic and independent co-operative society.

“We look forward to working with Debbie as we build on our strong foundations and plan for the future.”

Commenting on her new role, Robinson said: “My vision for the future of Central England Co-operative is to grow sustainably and make the most of the Society’s key USP; our co-operative principles.”

“I look forward to building on the fantastic work Martyn has done and working with the team to ensure Central England Co-operative fulfils its ambitions and potential, making a real difference for our members and the communities we serve.”

Departing chief executive Martyn Cheatle said: “I am incredibly proud of the society and our colleagues, all of whom have contributed to the continued success Central England Co-operative has worked so hard to achieve in the time I have been chief executive.

“I wish Debbie all the very best for her future with the best independent retail Co-operative in the UK.”

Robinson also sits on the boards of the Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium.