Barry Stevenson: Retail veteran strikes gold at high street pawnbroker

It's fair to say that Barry Stevenson has had his ups and downs during his career on the high street, but since he took the helm at the pawnbroker Albemarle & Bond last September he has only enhanced its sparkling recent performance.

Yesterday, the former Marks & Spencer director further demonstrated his retailing nous by unveiling an ambitious store opening programme for the next year at Albemarle, whose core business of issuing loans against gold jewellery to credit-constrained customers has powered ahead during the downturn.

Before Albemarle, Mr Stevenson had been chief executive of Wyevale Garden Centres, which he joined in June 2006 in the wake of the £310m takeover by retail entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter. But Mr Stevenson left the garden centre chain in January 2008 in a shock departure, given that sales and profits had increased over the previous year. Subsequently, the control of Wyevale shifted to Sir Tom's lending banks and it was renamed Garden Centre Group.

During his three years at M&S as retail director, Mr Stevenson's responsibilities had included the development and roll out of its Simply Food format. But he left the high street giant in March 2004 before Sir Stuart Rose rode in that summer to fight off a hostile takeover bid from Sir Philip Green.

Mr Stevenson also had stints as a director at B&Q and Woolworths, as well as a non-executive at the shoe chain Stead & Simpson just before it folded.

Looking forward, Albemarle's expansion plans mean Mr Stevenson is likely to have less time for his outside interests of cycling, travelling, golf and football.

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