Pandemic disruption hastens boardroom restructuring at Lakeland

From left: Sam, Martin and Julian Rayner

The coronavirus lockdown crisis has accelerated a restructuring at Cumbria-based national retailer Lakeland, resulting in the boardroom departure of the three Rayner brothers, whose father Alan founded the business in 1956.

Lakeland’s 67-store portfolio was forced to close during lockdown, which, understandably, hit sales for the £139m-turnover company.

The company, which employs 1,500 staff, said it has brought forward planned changes to its structure following the pandemic disruption.

Sam, Martin and Julian Rayner will retire from the board of the Windermere-based business next month (September), but will still retain ownership of the company.

The changes will also see current chief executive, Catherine Nunn, take the role of deputy chair, overseeing the activities of the Lakeland operating board.

She will be replaced by Steve Knights, currently Lakeland’s commercial director, who will be supported at board level by Paul Lewis (chief financial and operating officer), Scott Jefferson (chief commercial officer) and Neil Piggot (chief customer officer).

As part of this board restructure, operations director, Gary Marshall, has taken the opportunity to move on and, after 16 years with the company, he will depart at the end of this month.

Lakeland’s non-executive director, Philip Johnson, will continue to provide support, advice and guidance to both the Rayner family and the new operating board.

The business said this smaller board will allow Lakeland to be more agile, while focusing on the most important areas of strategy and operational delivery.

The coming weeks and months will also see further changes to structures and positions throughout the company as Lakeland looks to position itself as strongly as possible for the future.

Lakeland said that, while these announcements come amid a challenging environment for retailers, the Rayner family believe that a strong leadership team will see a positive long-term and sustainable future for the business, despite the current trading environment.

Sam Rayner said: “In my 46 years at the helm of Lakeland, I have never been so grateful to our colleagues who, responding to the recent unprecedented events, transformed and changed our company in just a few days to meet the challenges we all faced.

“Our colleagues adapted, changed and moved mountains and we will be forever grateful.”

He added: “We believe that Lakeland’s overall strategy remains even more relevant now than ever before and will provide clear focus and direction for the years to come.

“We have also learned over the past five months that certain elements of the strategy will now need to be delivered much more rapidly than was originally envisaged, and this includes the review of our structure, along with accelerating our plans for the future running of the business.

“I’m delighted that we have been able to appoint our talented CEO, Catherine to the role of deputy chairman, who, alongside Steve and their team, will lead Lakeland into a new era.”

Lakeland stocks a wide range of kitchenware, including Mary Berry cookware.

Its last accounts, filed for the 2018 financial year, showed an 8.7% fall in sales of £139m, while the previous year’s £2.3m pre-tax profit became a £2.7m pre-tax loss. The Rayner family was paid a £600,000 dividend.