Former Clarks chairman Roger Pedder, who turned the retailer around after a high-profile family dispute, has passed away aged 74.

Mark McMenemy, a friend and former colleague, said Pedder was “an outstanding businessman and deal maker” who earned the respect of all who knew him.

After graduating from Liverpool University, Pedder entered the industry as a graduate trainee at Clarks Shoes in 1963, leaving to pursue other retail roles in 1969.

It was perhaps fitting then that his retail legend was forged when he returned to Clarks as chairman and succeeded in turning around the family-owned retailer.

Pedder joined Clarks as chairman in the early 1990s during a well-publicised dispute between members of the Clark family and managed to steady the ship to make it the fourth-ranked shoe business globally.

Clarks recovery

Under Pedder’s watch Clarks recovered its direction and profitability, improving sales and operating profit from £655m and £27.6m in 1993/1994 to £954m and £94.2m in 2005/06.

He left the business in good shape on his retirement in May 2006 and it continued to grow profitably to become the fourth-largest shoe company in the world, with sales in 2010 in excess of £1.25bn.

It was during his time at Clarks that Pedder met McMenemy, who was his finance director from 1996 to 2001.

“I knew him best as a chairman and a man,” says McMenemy. “He was intelligent, incisive, challenging, supportive and a wonderful mentor.”

Pedder was a “family man and brought this to work”, says McMenemy. Outside of work Pedder and his wife, Sibella, enjoyed spending time with their large family in the UK and South Africa, where they have invested in a small Cape Town-based cafe chain called Crave.

“His caring nature, calm demeanour, humour and fatherly style helped to mould many of us into better businessmen and women and better people,” says McMenemy.

Other ventures

It was these traits that stood him in good stead with his other ventures in the retail industry, including turnarounds at Robert Dyas and Halfords.

The Robert Dyas turnaround occurred after Pedder took on the chairman’s role following a disastrous 1997 fire, which destroyed the Croydon HQ.

Alongside high-profile chairmanship roles, Pedder had an entrepreneurial flair, as evidenced by him founding Pet City, which was sold to US-based Petsmart in 1996.

“With the thrill of retailing in his blood he led successful teams from such diverse products as bicycles to hardware goods, booze and even pets,” says McMenemy. “He also stepped beyond shopkeeping, using his talents to help reshape Symm, which specialises in restoring stately homes.”

His retail fame was built upon chairman roles where he turned crises into triumphs. Pedder said in the past that the chariman’s role was “to create the conditions where management can succeed”.

There can be no doubting he did just that.