THE boss of supermarket giant J Sainsbury is to step down.

The grocer told the City this morning that retail veteran Mike Coupe will vacate his post as chief executive at the end of May, when he intends to retire.

Mr Coupe, who has held the post for nearly six years and has worked for the supermarket for 15 years, will be succeeded by Simon Roberts, the group’s retail and operations director.

Under Mr Coupe’s leadership, Sainsbury’s pulled off the takeover of Argos but failed in its audacious bid to merge with rival Asda.

Mr Coupe said: "This has been a very difficult decision for me personally. There is never a good time to move on, but as we and the industry continue to evolve, I believe now is the right time for me to hand over to my successor."

Shares were down more than two per cent in early trading.