Sterling Furniture Group seeks new boss in landmark year

The Tillicoultry-based retailer has said it is seeking a “dynamic new CEO with strong retail, data and digital expertise to take our family business to the next level”.

The move comes as Sterling, which now employs 600 people in 10 offices across Scotland, celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Mr. Mearns will retire after 20 years in that role and nearly four decades with the company and will remain in office pending the appointment of a new CEO. After joining Sterling in 1984, he rose through the ranks at Sterling, rising to Chief Financial Officer and then General Manager in 2003 following the death of George Knowles Jr., son of founder George Knowles Sr., at the age of 41.

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In addition to hiring a new CEO, a trio of third-generation family members are to be appointed directors of the company. Murray and Euan Graham, sons of Lesley Graham, purchasing director and daughter of George Knowles Sr., will join the board alongside Mrs Graham’s nephew George Knowles.

Ms. Graham, who will remain in her current role, recognized Mr. Mearns’ contribution to the company. She said: “On behalf of the family, I would like to express our gratitude to Gordon for his years of service and leadership at Sterling Furniture Group and wish him well in the future.

“He became CEO under difficult circumstances and has led the growth of our business for more than two decades, including our acquisition of Forrest Furnishings in 2016.

“Gordon has put us on an exciting path driving our rebrand into Sterling Home and streamlining many of our behind the scenes systems and processes.

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“As we prepare to celebrate our 50th anniversary, we have already begun a significant investment in our Sterling Home Stores and online store, and we are now actively recruiting a dynamic new CEO with strong retail, data and digital expertise Family business to the next level.

“As part of our focus on business continuity, we are working directly on a company-wide employee engagement process to gauge employee views and recommendations.

“Our people are the beating heart of our company, so it’s important that they can share their thoughts and ideas as we lead the company into its next chapter.”

When asked if the company had any plans to promote a family member to the position of chief executive, Ms Graham told The Herald: “The family, the board and the company are very keen to benefit from the expertise, experience and industry knowledge of one external candidates to benefit companies as we enter this exciting new chapter to fulfill our quest for company longevity.

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“Sterling Furniture Group remains a family business and I look forward to working with the new CEO who will oversee the next generation of family business leaders.”

Sterling was founded in 1973 by entrepreneur George Knowles Snr in response to the growing popularity of out-of-town retail parks in the United States.

He opened the first Sterling furniture store after converting a former mill into a retail outlet in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire.

The company was then propelled into mainstream consciousness through a series of television advertisements with Scottish broadcaster Dougie Donnelly and expanded beyond the Central Belt after George Knowles Jr. took the lead.

Mr Mearns recently led a major rebranding which will see the majority of stores operate under the new Sterling Home brand.

The new name is already being used in the company’s online shop.

Most recent accounts for Sterling showed the company had a pre-tax profit of £4.15m for the year ended 28 February 2022, up from £2.6m. That came as sales soared from £40m to £55.5m.

The directors note in the balance sheet: “The difficulties and challenges caused by the pandemic have remained and have been complemented by the effects of the war in Ukraine.

“The group continued its progress in converting stores to the Sterling Home format with the conversion of two additional stores in Glasgow and Edinburgh. These shops have traded well since reopening.

“Despite the above challenges, the company has performed well as it has benefited from pent-up demand from lockdowns and from investment in the new format stores.”

Sterling said yesterday that it expects its financial position to be stable in the coming year amid uncertain trading conditions for the retail industry. Sterling Furniture Group seeks new boss in landmark year

Adam Bradshaw

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