The industry stalwart on handing over the reins of the business.

This year Peter Lunn handed down the Lunns business to the third generation of the family. As he steps into the role of chairman, he tells Professional Jeweller about his 2012 successes, reaching out to a new demographic and holidaying in Marbella. He was named a Ti Sento Retail Star in this year’s Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers.

Professional Jeweller: This year you have handed over the running of Lunns to the third generation – what has this involved?
Peter Lunn: My father started our company back in the early 1950s, my sister Jacqueline and I were the next family members to take up the reins and now 2012 has been a very special year for the family as the next generation moves to the fore. My son John took over as managing director earlier this year and my daughter Suzanne also joined our board as marketing director. My role is now that of chairman and it leaves me time to get more involved in special projects for the company.


PJ: You’ve also had some special projects this year
PL: The Centenary Pendant, created by Lunn’s to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic, was a success. The commemorations of the launching of this incredible ship and the subsequent tragedy that followed have been many and varied. A new Titanic visitor centre opened in Belfast earlier this year and visitor numbers have greatly exceeded predictions. Belfast has welcomed people from all over the world. In these recessionary times sales of fine jewellery have been difficult but it has been a delight to see the success of these pendants. We expected our inventory to last through to Christmas but we now have only one piece left. Portfolio of Fine Diamonds has been and still is an amazing journey: watching the brand develop from small beginnings in Lunn’s into a national brand that is changing the way our partners sell diamonds and driving exciting sales performances for them.

PJ: Have you hit any challenges along the way? And if so how have you overcome them?
PL: Northern Ireland is in its fifth year of recession and we were forced to make cuts in the business this year, unfortunately this meant that we had to let some people go. It has been tremendously difficult for everyone involved, as we are a very closely knit family business. We have a terrific team in Lunn’s and it has been inspiring to see how everyone in the business has pulled together to overcome this.

PJ: Your new store in Belfast is very different from your main store, what was the thinking behind bringing this new facet to the business?
PL: The Victoria Square store was always going to be different from our main store in Queen’s Arcade. For the first time we were trading in a shopping centre – aimed at a younger demographic. It made sense to cater for this in the design of the store but to retain the luxurious style for which Lunn’s is renowned. We wanted to attract a new customer rather than spread our existing clientele. I am pleased to say that this has been achieved and even though the new store opened virtually on the day the recession began here, it has consistently outperformed its targets.

PJ: You’ve now retired from the Houlden Group board of directors. What prompted this decision?
PL: The decision to leave the Houlden board in 2011 had been in the pipeline for a year or two. It was way back in the 1970s that Stuart Laing approached me to join him in direct buying and Houlden was subsequently created with three founding directors, Stuart, myself and Tony Rudell who tragically passed away last year. Even though there had been a rotation of other directors serving periods on the Houlden board, the three founding directors remained. It’s easy to overstay your welcome! There are lots of talented people within the increasingly vibrant Houlden Group so it was not a difficult decision to stand aside. Luun’s remain a very committed member of Houlden, a group that has done much to make our company what it is today.

PJ: How would you describe your approach to work?
PL: I have always enjoyed what I do and two key principles have guided my professional life: one, to gather people around you who are more talented than you in what they do, and two, the art of delegation.

PJ: How do you manage your work-life balance and how do you relax off the job?
PL: The importance of a good work-life balance was a key principle in the international chief executives group Vistage which I was proud to be a member of for around 10 years. I have always enjoyed my job and even though I am now 65 I have no thoughts of retirement, I still find business life as stimulating as ever. We are fortunate enough to have a second home in Marbella and both my wife and I love the time we spend there. To relax at home I have a number of charitable interests and I am also president of Linfield, Northern Ireland’s leading football club.

PJ: Looking forward, what are your plans for your business for the next year?
PL: Alongside Portfolio of Fine Diamonds’ development director, Nick Callegari I shall be heavily involved in helping to extend our network of Portfolio franchisees, we are looking to add a minimum of a further nine partners in the year ahead. Here at Lunn’s we continue to invest in the business and nowhere more so than in our team. Some years ago we created a vibrant People Development department which focuses heavily on developing everyone in the business so that both individually and as a company we can continue to grow. Investing in our people has never been more important than now.