CWB meets Glenn Leech, the newly appointed CEO of Banner, replacing Nigel Plenderleith who retires at the end of the year.
Laura Turner: What is your professional background?
Glenn Leech: My early career was at Ford Motor Company, which was a fabulous learning ground for someone straight out of university. I then joined Connect Group plc, a specialist distribution group which we grew significantly through organic growth and several acquisitions. In my last role at Connect, I ran their Education Resources and Consumables business.
LT: What attracted you to Banner as an employer?
GL: Banner is a fabulous business, with great people and a strong reputation. It is the largest schoolwear supplier in terms of size and stockholding, but has aspirations to innovate, grow and improve. These are all things that excite me and made me keen to join the already strong team.
LT: What kind of CEO are you?
GL: Any good CEO seeks to surround themselves with people better than them. Your job is then to help facilitate getting the right strategy in place and motivating everyone to get behind its delivery. So, I spend quite a bit of time on ensuring everyone is aligned to our plan and empowering colleagues to deliver it. I’m also very customer focused – any successful business must understand what its customers want and work tirelessly to deliver or exceed these expectations.
LT: What do you identify as your key strengths and how do they align with Banner’s needs?
GL: I have some useful skills in driving digital transformation, which I think are really relevant to our market and Banner. I have run multi-site, multi-channel businesses and I have been through a number of major IT transformations. I have also run a business that supplies schools, so I am familiar with the challenges in delivering strong service through our summer peak period. My post-acquisition integration experience is helpful given the company’s relatively recent acquisition of SWI, a superb business with great people. I would reflect on my other key strengths as more generic leadership strengths, particularly getting everyone in the business behind our plans for the future.
LT: How do you plan to apply these strengths to your new role?
GL: I only joined on 4 September, so it is very early days. I am currently spending as much time as possible learning the ropes, meeting customers and learning all about the clothing industry. Once I have completed this onboarding, I will work with our leadership team to update our strategy.
LT: What’s first on your agenda?
GL: Firstly, we need to ensure a smooth transition between myself and Nigel Plenderleith, who has done an outstanding job leading Banner and will be missed by many people in the industry, not just our business. Nigel and I are working closely together and will continue to do so over the next few months. Secondly, I want to meet as many customers as possible to understand their perspective on the industry and the role that they want to see Banner take in moving it forward. We also have our important rebranding to deliver. As with any business that has grown through acquisition, getting this right is important and I am confident that we will. Banner is a well-known and well-respected brand in our market and we intend to enhance its reputation further with innovation and continuous improvements in service.
LT: And your longer-term plans?
GL: This is tricky for me to answer, as I haven’t been in the business long enough. What I can say is that we intend to maintain and enhance our reputation for product innovation, service and having great people who are passionate about what we do.
LT: What trends do you see driving the future of the schoolwear industry?
GL: I think customers’ expectations will become increasingly demanding. I believe students and schools will expect more fashionable designs and that the trend towards more technical sportswear fabrics will grow. This goes hand in hand with students having a louder voice in their school’s decision making around uniform requirements. It is inevitable that technology will play a bigger role in our supply chain and in enhancing the customer experience. There will also be plenty of pressure to improve the flexibility and speed of our supply chain.
LT: What are the industry’s main challenges?
GL: As everyone knows, Back to School is always a challenge. With the growing number of students, particularly in secondary school, I don’t see this getting any easier in the next few years. Couple this with expectations of shorter lead times and the pressure on the overall supply chain, servicing the industry is only going to intensify. As a parent of three school-age kids, I do appreciate that the industry could do more to improve the perceived value for money it provides to parents – that means better service, more choice and competitive pricing. Brexit and the impact on both exchange rates and the availability of labour is also a big challenge.
LT: How would you describe the culture at Banner?
GL: When I joined, I was greeted warmly and openly. Banner is a friendly place to work with people who genuinely care about what we do. There is a naturally strong service ethic and an incredible readiness to go the extra mile to deliver. I really like that. At the same time, our culture is evolving in a good way to become a little more forward thinking and innovative. We recognize that our future success relies on the capability, commitment and creativity of our people. As such, we will be investing more in their engagement and development.
LT: What’s the company’s ultimate mission?
GL: This is something we are reviewing at the moment, but I like what I inherited. The current Banner mission is for “students to look good and feel proud to wear Banner schoolwear”. We believe we will achieve this by focusing on innovation, passion, service and quality.
LT: Where would you like to see the business in five years’ time?
GL: I want us to be the best schoolwear supplier in the UK, with Banner being the brand of choice for retailers, schools, parents and students.