He replaces Trevor Bish-Jones, who left in June after more than six years seeking to resolve the group's difficulties.
Johnson, 44, joins from Focus DIY, where he held a post as chief executive for four years until July 2007.
Previously he had worked for GUS, for Asda in a variety of roles and in consulting at The Kalchas Group and Bain & Company. Steve is currently a non-executive director of the Unipart Group of Companies Ltd.
During his time at Focus, Johnson successfully instigated a renewal strategy designed to grow sales, enhance margins and reduce costs.
This was achieved through a re-alignment of the price proposition, a review of the trading formats, an overhaul of the supply chain, the amalgamation of three head office locations and a reduction in central overheads.
Richard North, Chairman of Woolworths, said: "We are delighted that Steve will be joining Woolworths. With his strong background in both retail and consultancy, together with his particular experience in achieving a turnaround at Focus, he brings the strategic and operational skills that the Group needs to help it move to the next stage of its development.”
Johnson said: "I am very excited to be joining the Group. Woolworths is a well-loved high street brand operating in attractive markets, while the EUK and 2 entertain businesses have grown to hold market-leading position in their respective markets.”