Last week, Lakeland came out top in a study of UK retailers by consumer group Which? We examine what makes the retailer so popular

Why is Lakeland in the news?

Along with Richer Sounds, Lakeland topped a Best and Worst Shops study carried out by consumer group Which? last week.

The study found that Lakeland was praised by shoppers for its “innovative products and exceptional service”, with shoppers describing staff as being “helpful, knowledgeable and courteous”. Lakeland’s customers are so dedicated the retailer even received congratulations cards as a result of the study.

What makes the stores so good?

Fans say the stores are unintimidating and easy to navigate, with an impressive range of reasonably priced products, spanning from budget to high-end. Director Julian Rayner believes the retailer’s success starts with the product. “That’s what brings the customers through the doors in the first place. Service is just common sense,” he says.

However, Rayner adds that the retailer conducts a “huge amount of training”, with HQ sending DVDs to all stores to teach staff about products before they are on the shelves. “There’s a big demand for innovative and new products,” says Rayner, citing a new contraption that takes just seven minutes to make an ice lolly, as well as a gadget to poach eggs. Both are big sellers.

In the study the store experience also rated highly. Lakeland chooses its locations carefully. “As we open each store, we look at it in its local environment and make sure it fits,” says Rayner, who points to its latest store in Kingston, which is in a 1930s-style building.

What is Lakeland’s history?

Alan Rayner started the family-owned and run retailer Lakeland in the 1960s when he set up a mail-order business selling agricultural plastics and home freezer-related products. Throughout the next decade, still headquartered in Windermere, it transformed into a retailer selling kitchen and homewares products through its growing store portfolio, website and mail-order catalogues, becoming a darling of middle England.

Today, home shoppings account for the majority of sales, which totalled £134.8m in the year to December 31, 2008.

What’s next?

The 47-store retailer has outlined plans to have 80 shops in the UK, and is hoping to open another store in Epsom later this year. Having dipped its toe in the water in the Middle East, with a store opening in Dubai in March, Lakeland is preparing to open another in Bahrain. It is also targeting Kuwait as it expands its presence in the region.