Sterling Furniture Group recruiting for new CEO as the company marks its 50th year

Left to Right: Murray Graham, Gordon Mearns, Lesley Graham, Euan Graham and George Knowles

FAMILY-owned home furnishing specialist Sterling Furniture Group is launching a recruitment drive for a dynamic new CEO in its 50th year in business.

Gordon Mearns is retiring after 20 years in the hot seat, during which time he has grown the company to include 600 staff working across 10 branches.

Mr Mearns steps down as managing director after overseeing the first steps of a major rebranding that will see the majority of its shops trading under the new “Sterling Home” brand, which is already being used on the company’s online store.  He will remain in position until the new CEO is appointed.

Sterling Furniture Group was founded in September 1973 after its entrepreneurial founder George Knowles Senior saw the growing popularity of out-of-town retail parks in the United States.

George Knowles Sr converted an old mill in Tillicoultry in Clackmannanshire, near Stirling into his first furniture store, which was made famous in a series of legendary television adverts starring sports broadcaster Dougie Donnelly.

The founder’s son, George Knowles Junior, took over the company in 1985 and began expanding his family’s business beyond Scotland’s Central Belt.

Mr Mearns, who joined the business in 1984 and rose through its ranks to become its finance director, became managing director in 2003 following the tragic death of George Knowles Jr at the age of 41. 

Lesley Graham, Sterling’s buying director and the daughter of its founder, said: “On behalf of the family I want to extend our thanks to Gordon for his years of service and stewardship at Sterling Furniture Group, and wish him all the best for the future.

“He became managing director under difficult circumstances and has led the growth of our business for more than two decades, including our acquisition of Forrest Furnishings in 2016.

“Gordon has set us on an exciting course by spearheading our rebrand to Sterling Home – as well as streamlining many of our systems and processes behind the scenes.

“As we prepare to mark our 50th anniversary, we’ve already begun a significant investment in our Sterling Home stores and our online shop, and now we’re actively recruiting a dynamic new CEO with strong retail, data and digital expertise to take our family’s business to the next level.

“More immediately, as part of our focus on business continuity, we are working on a company-wide employee engagement process to gauge staff views and recommendations. Our staff are the beating heart of our business, so it’s vital they can share their thoughts and ideas as we take the company forward into its next chapter.”

Members of the third generation of the family are now also working in the business, including Ms Graham’s two sons, Murray and Euan and her nephew, George, who will shortly be appointed as Company Directors.

Sterling Furniture Group grew its pre-tax profits to £4.2 million in the year to 28 February 2022 from £2.5m a year earlier, on the back of turnover rising to £55.5m from £40.1m.

Against a backdrop of uncertain trading conditions which have made things challenging for all retailers (including the collapse of one of Sterling’s competitors*), the company predicts a stable financial position in the year ahead.

Sterling’s management changes come amid a reshaping of the home furnishing market, with the coronavirus lockdowns making retailers’ websites an even more important part of the sales process. 

Market analysts at GlobalData value the UK living room furniture market at £3.9 billion and expect it to grow by 25% by 2025, while highlighting the continuing trend for customers to browse for items online.

*Online furniture retailer collapsed in November 2022 after failing to attract a buyer.

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