Dunelm has drafted in Asda’s former vice-president for own-brand design and development as its new product director.
So what will Lambert, perhaps best known as a fashion aficionado, bring to the homewares retailer?
Chief executive John Browett told Retail Week last year that Dunelm is in “execution mode”. And this recent hire, less than two months after Dunelm acquired the Worldstores, Kiddicare and Achica brands in an £8.5m deal, could represent another step in the retailer’s development.
From fashion to homewares
In her early career, Lambert spent eight years shaping, launching and steering George at Asda – the first supermarket fashion brand – alongside founder George Davies.
Lambert previously told Retail Week that she took inspiration from Davies “for his entrepreneurial vision, his focus on delivering new, great quality products, experiences that put the customer at their heart, and his giving young people, like I was, a chance to succeed”.
After a stint at Next as womanswear product director, Lambert returned to George in 2007 as brand director.
She was tasked with overseeing design, buying and quality of George clothing in Asda stores and on George.com.
But despite having her sights set on a career in fashion as a young girl, Lambert is no stranger to the homewares category.
Lambert led the launch of George at Asda’s first home range, sparking a jump in homewares sales, before being promoted to run own-label brand development at the Walmart-owned supermarket in 2015.
Delivering on promises
Former Asda executive and Retail Remedy partner Phil Dorrell believes Lambert has much to offer Dunelm.
“She has a good eye for detail, which served her well at George, and she made an immediate improvement in the quality of goods offered and the way they were sourced,” he says.
“At Dunelm the brief will be similar in many ways – to improve the quality of goods and range and maximise the commercial sourcing. She will do this well.”
According to Retail Week Prospect lead analyst Phil Wiggenraad, Lambert’s appointment will also support Dunelm in its ongoing ambition to increase direct sourcing from the Far East.
“Lambert has a wealth of experience in merchandising, sourcing and product development from her time at George, which is likely to have focused on Asia.
“Her skills will therefore resonate with Dunelm, for which directly sourced products accounted for just 21% of its overall sales in its last financial year,” Wiggenraad says.
He maintains that, as there is still much scope for Dunelm to grow this side of the business, Lambert’s experience “will be of great benefit”.
Reserved but robust
In terms of character, Dorrell says Lambert is, “in some ways rather reserved”.
“Although confident in her own abilities, she is not a show-stealer – she would not be someone who would be the jazz hands in most organisations,” he explains.
He insists, however, that Lambert proved herself to be necessarily “robust” during her time at George.
“This will serve her well at Dunelm, as the business is not used to changing or corporate process. It has, in fact, often prided itself on a lack of a corporate feel in the business.”
Above and beyond
When Lambert left Asda last year, the grocer identified her as someone who made a “significant contribution” beyond the remit of her job specification.
Throughout her time there she was as an ambassador for Tickled Pink, a supporter of women in leadership and, externally, she acted as a judge for Graduate Fashion Week.
And her work to inspire young hopefuls continues as an ambassador for Retail Week’s Be Inspired campaign, which is dedicated to inspiring future women retail leaders.
As one of the campaign’s ambassadors, Lambert has committed to help empower and embolden burgeoning stars as they take their next steps in the retail industry.
Lambert featured as ‘one to watch’ in Retail Week’s Power List, because it was always likely that she would make a return to the industry.
As Browett seeks to expand Dunelm’s offer, with trials of Kiddicare implants in stores and seizing on Worldstores’ “extensive” homewares and furniture ranges, Lambert’s expertise across categories looks likely to bring an eye for style and a savvy retail mind.