Carol Welch appointed at AF Blakemore as new CEO

In April, Carol Welch will become Chief Executive of AF Blakemore, one of the largest privately owned family businesses in the UK. She succeeds Jerry Marwood, who is leaving to concentrate on non-executive directorships and consulting.

Carol joins the business from ODEON Cinemas Group, where she is Managing Director UK & Ireland and Commercial Officer Europe. Over the last six years, she has transformed ODEON’s customer and colleague experience, introducing Luxe recliner cinemas, new digital systems, more efficient operating models, and a purpose driven, inclusive culture. She has overseen growth of commercial revenues across nine European markets and successfully navigated through the pandemic. Carol brings a significant depth and breadth of experience from branded food and drink, retail, and foodservice, having held positions at Costa Coffee, Associated British Foods, Cadbury-Schweppes, and PepsiCo. She is also a non-executive director at Hammerson plc.  

Carol said “I am thrilled to be joining AF Blakemore as CEO. It is a fantastic business with a deep understanding of retail, wholesale, and foodservice and an enviable values-led culture, fuelled by more than 7,000 colleagues and partners who are passionate about delivering great food and drink solutions. I’m excited to be working with the shareholders and team to deliver their business ambition.” 

Peter Blakemore, Chairman, commented: “We’re delighted that Carol is joining, she brings a wealth of experience from multiple sectors, a strong strategic vision combined with an approach aligned to the Blakemore Way and values. 

Carol joining sees the culmination of our CEO succession plan following Jerry’s decision to leave the business at the end of this financial year. Jerry has done an outstanding job for Blakemore’s over the last 11 years, handing over strong sales performance and a strategic plan that will help us to deliver the innovation and ambition that are hallmarks of our business.” 

Outgoing CEO Jerry Marwood said: “I’ve had a fabulous time at AFB and had the privilege of working with an outstanding group of people. Together we have proven that a privately owned family business can succeed in one of the most competitive markets in the UK and still uphold core values that make us all proud to be part of the team. Carol is a great recruit and clearly demonstrates our shareholders’ ambition for the future.” 

AF Blakemore recently announced sales for year ending May 22 were £1.2bn and a 9% growth in the first 24 weeks of 22/23.  Latest data from their company owned retail estate highlighted a positive Christmas trading performance with 4-week LFL retail sales +7.7% to w/e 8th January 23. 

As well as the SPAR retail and wholesale businesses, AF Blakemore operates across the foodservice, wholesale distribution, and fresh meat sectors alongside Philpotts, a chain of prepared-food stores. 

About A.F. Blakemore & Son Ltd

A.F. Blakemore & Son Ltd was founded in 1917 and is a family-owned food & drink retail and wholesale distribution business, based in Willenhall, West Midlands. 

Peter Blakemore is the third generation of the Blakemore family to lead the company, which currently employs more than 7,000 people. 

A.F. Blakemore consists of the following divisions: 

  • Retail, which consists of 262 company-owned SPAR stores
  • Philpotts, a chain of 15 prepared-food stores
  • Trade Partners, which serves 690 independently owned SPAR stores
  • Wholesale Distribution, a complete food & drink supply chain service provider
  • Foodservice, which serves catering outlets nationwide
  • Fresh Foods, a fresh meat wholesaler, distributor, and importer
  • Design & Shopfitting, A.F. Blakemore’s own shop fitting division
  • Vegan Store, a wholesaler, and distributor of vegan products


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