Dunelm’s recruitment of Fiona Lambert as its new product director is a strong appointment from a retailer that appears to be doing a lot of things right at the moment.
Lambert is an outstanding product person, who cut her teeth under George Davies at Asda before graduating to director of the George brand and most recently vice-president for own-brand design and development at Asda.
Although her roots are in fashion, Lambert has a strong track record in homewares and her experience of successfully launching George at Asda’s first home range will have further strengthened her appeal to Dunelm.
The role of product director at a growing business like Dunelm should suit Lambert to a tee, while Dunelm are getting a well respected figure whose experience in sourcing from overseas, particularly the Far East, will be of huge value to the business as it executes its growth strategy.
Dunelm was one of the few retailers that expected the UK public would vote to leave the EU – partly on account of its older, more Eurosceptic customer demographic – and planned accordingly, bringing lots of stock forward to hedge against currency fluctuations. It’s a strong business that has attracted some top industry talent in recent years, not least in the shape of chief executive John Browett, and I will be watching Lambert, and Dunelm’s, progress with interest.
Another move worthy of mention this week is that of Snow & Rock marketing director Becky Brock, who is to join John Lewis as its new marketing director. The role has been vacant since Craig Inglis was promoted to customer director in September and will see Brock take over leadership of the retailer’s CRM, digital, brand and category marketing teams. With a strong CV that includes a spell at Unilever – known for its production line of great marketing talent – Brock has the credentials to make a positive mark at John Lewis.
And so to prospects for 2017. After a day or two readjusting to the daily routine (including an office move for Anthony Gregg Partnership to Kensington High Street) last Thursday saw the start of one of the busiest runs in my 26 years in search. Since then we have been inundated with requests, which may surprise some people but says to me that the jobs market is still buoyant, despite the well-documented challenges facing retail businesses.
Retailers will always need great people and as business owners dissect Christmas trading figures many will conclude they need a change in personnel.
Much of the talk in the media has been around the inevitability of cost increases in 2017 as hedging measures expire and currency pressures come to bear. Whilst this may be true to an extent, my view is that the threat of significant retail price inflation has been overplayed. Yes, retailers who source largely from overseas and sell predominantly in the UK will face cost pressures but from my