Last week Dunelm’s interims revealed soaring profits. Nicola Harrison looks at how its chief executive has taken the homewares retailer from strength to strength
Even the most ambitious people in retail might not expect to become a chief executive at 23, but that was the tender age at which Will Adderley took the helm at value homewares specialist Dunelm.
Of course, it helped that his mum and dad owned the company, but Adderley junior, unlike some children of business founders, had both the attitude and aptitude to take Dunelm to a new level.
Under his leadership the retailer has not only successfully floated, but pretty much stayed in the City’s good books ever since.
Last week, Dunelm - named after the former Adderley family home in Leicestershire - revealed pre-tax profits had soared 69.3% to £46.2m in the 26 weeks to January 2. Like-for-likes climbed 15.4%.
Like his parents Bill and Jean, Will Adderley prefers to keep out of the public eye and devote his attention to the business. His relentless focus on value has helped Dunelm flourish during the recession, as consumers increasingly sought good value. Dunelm’s mantra, “Simply Value for Money”, has struck a chord with hard-pressed shoppers.
Seymour Pierce analyst Freddie George says Adderley is a “good guy and passionate about the business” and a “retailer through and through”. Numis analyst Andy Wade seconds this, saying: “He’s a proper retailer and knows how to run stores. He’s not a corporate guy, but that’s not to say
he doesn’t do the corporate stuff very well.
Wade recalls that the second time he met Adderley - some months after the first occasion - the Dunelm boss surprised him by striding over and remembering not only his name, but that he had just moved jobs. “He certainlydid his homework,” says Wade. “He’s very personable and has a dry sense of humour.”
But while the 37-year-old may be skilful at the City glad-handing, he really likes to just get on with the job - a job he is now well used to doing, having become chief executive in 1996.
Born in Barnsley, Adderley grew up in the former mining town of Coalville, Leicestershire, and joined Dunelm
full-time in 1993, having gained a degree in Industrial Economics from Nottingham University.
He already had several years’ experience under his belt at the business, however, from its humble beginnings as a market stall in Leicester, and quickly took to the role of boss - between 2000 and 2004, store numbers doubled and Dunelm floated in 2006.
Wade suspects that, as the chief executive of a listed retailer, Adderley may have a tough side to him. “I’d be very surprised if he hasn’t got a hard edge,” he says. George concurs and says that Adderley “comes across as quite laid back, but I bet he’s anything but that”.
Sources says that Adderley is known to “drive a hard bargain” with suppliers, which is how Dunelm is able to offer such keen value. “He’s done a
fantastic job at Dunelm,” says George. “He’s stuck to the formula and not wavered”.
Adderley’s ambitions have not wavered, either. Dunelm won customers at both ends of the spectrum during the recession, and Adderley says the retailer has “no intention of losing” the new customers when the economy bounces back, saying that Dunelm does not want to be a “hero” for the short term only. Judging by Adderley’s track record so far, the retailer’s appeal to shoppers and shareholders shows no sign of abating soon.