The Millennium saw the company in good heart, indeed in a stronger trading position than for many years. The renewed focus on offering the wisest possible range of really high quality headwear, coupled with continued growth in the Millinery part of the business brought steadily increasing success. The wholesale business, under new leadership, also experience new and vigorous growth as our name and reputation allowed new opportunities to be captured. This growth in the business allowed a major programme of refurbishment and restoration of our building, by then well over 300 years old, to be undertaken over a period of years. The aim, now successfully achieved, was to retain our heritage but to refresh it all to make it safe, effective and enjoyable to visit and work in for customers and staff alike. We also looked carefully at how best to grow and strengthen the business in other ways.
As part of that review the two families thought long and hard about succession issues and concluded that there was no guarantee that inherited genes would necessarily provide the set of specialist retail skills needed to lead and run the business on a day to day basis, and that it was time to look outside for excellent and experienced management that could help the business continue to prosper and grow. Yet both families cared deeply about the business, and so determined that the governance model for the business should change, with the board becoming more non-executive.
In this the company was helped by the fortuitous fact that Nigel Lock Macdonald had been a member of the original body set up to create rules for our Corporate Governance in the UK, which led the thinking on these matters that was subsequently adopted throughout the developed world.
Sue Simpson, our Managing Director was recruited, and the board was enlarged to give effect to the planned changes. Two of Richard’s three sons had already spent some time working in the business, leaving to develop their own careers. One of them, Roger set up a successful business in West London and joined the Board as a non-executive director in 2005, along with Anna Stephenson, a daughter of John, who brought additional experience as a Solicitor, and Nigel Cliff, an Accountant and great grandson of GJ Stephenson. Nigel Lock Macdonald’s daughter Genevieve, a Doctor, joined the Board as a non executive director in September 2012 along with Ruth Ravenscroft, who heads our Millinery team. All share a common commitment to providing our customers with a truly excellent experience of service and quality of headwear supplied, and the pleasure of enjoying wearing it.
So today the two families are still very much involved with the running of the business and there are seven members and two generations sitting on the present board. ‘Mr. Lock’ is still very much alive in St. James’s Street as it was when Mr Wray was asked by a City of Westminster official if there was any plans in the future for the premises to be put to other uses – “Pack the place in, d’you mean?” exclaimed Mr Wray. “After three hundred years? Not bloody likely! If the Duke of Bedford can keep his family chateau in business we can do the same for ours!”