Discount clothing retailer Primark, has hired Julian Kilmartin, a former director at Marks & Spencer, as the new buying and merchandising director for its UK, Ireland and international operations.

The appointment is believed to be part of plans by the retailer to step up its overseas expansion.

Mr Kilmartin was most recently trading director for men's wear at Marks & Spencer, but he has also held posts at Moss Bros and Next Plc.

His departure from M&S last November came amid a management reshuffle prompted by the retirement of George Davies as part-time chairman of the Per Una brand.

According to reports, Mr Kilmartin replaces Primark's international trading director Guy Young, who departed earlier this month.

He will join the team headed by chief operating officer Paul Marchant, who is due to step into the role of chief executive when company founder Arthur Ryan steps down in September.

Primark, which is a subsidiary of Associated British Foods, most recently posted a 21% rise in sales in the 16 weeks to 20 June, as it continues to buck difficult trading conditions in the UK clothing sector.