Essential reading for retailers and suppliers in the home improvement market

Obituary: Ted Lansdowne

Published: 22 November 2010
Ted Lansdowne, md of Green DIY in Sussex and former md of Payless DIY, died on Friday November 19 after multiple heart attacks. He was 67.
Obituary: Ted Lansdowne
While working for the building products group Marley in the early 1980s, Mr Lansdowne persuaded the Marley management that the Marley Homecare name wasn't working - a decision that resulted in the first Payless store opening in Ramsgate in 1982. By 1989, Payless was the UK's third largest diy chain, with sales of £230m, and had taken over lesser rivals like Madeleys and AG Stanley.

He was also instrumental in creating Woodies, which is now Ireland's only national diy chain. Marley's Irish subsidiary had some redundant Chadwicks builder merchants branches which he was tasked with converting into diy stores. The first two had re-opened under the Payless facia when Marley sold its entire retail operation to Ward White, and when Boots bought Ward White one of its first acts (and as it turned out, a profoundly misguided one) was to get rid of all the senior people who knew anything about diy retailing.

Disenchanted with multiple diy retailing, Mr Lansdowne teamed up with his long-time colleague Doug Spickernell to set up a new independent business, and Green DIY opened its doors at Uckfield, east Sussex, in 1991. As the name implies, the business was an early adopter of environmental issues, and introduced policies like not giving away carrier bags long before they became widely used.

While Green DIY was getting under way, Mr Lansdowne was asked back to Ireland to sort out the Payless business there, and opening Green DIY turned out to be a part-time job, as he travelled back and forth to the republic, running both businesses in rotation. The Irish had already decided to drop the Payless name in favour of Woodies, and it was to disappear in the UK as well, victim of a succession of mergers and takeovers which eventually saw all the Payless and Do It All stores swallowed up by Focus.

Uckfield was chosen as Green DIY's location because it matched Mr Lansdowne's model perfectly: a prosperous town which was too small to attract the major national operators. It was an inspired choice: 19 years later, there still isn't a B&Q, Homebase, Wickes or Focus within 10 miles.

Interviewed a month ago by DIY Week's sister magazine Hardware & Garden Review, Mr Lansdowne had no regrets about striking out on his own. "The city had no empathy with the business - it was all just figures," he said. "Shareholder value was king, and nobody cared about anything else. No way was I going to be involved in that again. And the city is still like that - all the big boys are still focused on the share price, the p/e ratio, the dividend. They aren't being run as retailers."

He is survived by his wife Deena and son Clayton. Funeral arrangements have not yet been confirmed, but will be posted on diyweek.net as soon as possible.

Comments

Published prior to March 2014
By John Hood
I have only today heard the news about Ted's passing. I worked for him for several years in the 1980's as his Finance Director. He was an amazing leader and he engendered great loyalty and also made Payless D.I.Y a fun place to work.
His knowledge of the industry was exceptional and although I was an accountant I learnt a lot about retailing under his leadership.
Published prior to March 2014
By Ray Marshall
Very sad to hear of the passing of Ted, I knew him in the early days of Marley Homecare working at the first store in Exeter, subsequently managing stores in Chester and High Wycombe.He was a great inspiration, with a wicked sense of humor
Published prior to March 2014
By Roger Napleton
I worked closely with Ted for years in the 70's, 80's and 90's at Payless DIY and no-one has mentioned so far what a terrific leader he was and the depth of interest he showed in all members of staff at all levels. He built up an enormous team spirit and the loyalty it engendered was one of the reasons why Payless DIY was so successful. As his late colleague, Peter Galer, used to say about Ted "When he's away, you miss him a lot. That's the measure of the man."
Published prior to March 2014
By Anon Ymous
I worked under Ted at Green DIY for three and a half years but I only just heard about this and thought I should say something. They were a good few years and you couldn't ask for a more reasonable, knowledgeable boss. Hilarious when he wanted to be but stern and focused when he needed to be. A sad loss to anyone that knew him and a great guy.
Published prior to March 2014
By Dot Groves
I knew Ted back in the early 1970's when he was a young, up and coming manager at Marley and great friends with Bill Butcher who also worked there. He was an all round "good egg" and the world will be a poorer place for his passing. My thoughts are with his family.
Published prior to March 2014
By John Herbert. General Secretary EDRA
I was very sad to hear the news of Ted's death. I remember him well back in the the early 80s when I was giving a presentation to the Payless managers in Paris. Ted was in his element; the driving force of an inspired team.
Published prior to March 2014
By Phil & Sally Eves
He was always known to us as 'Big Ted' we feel very shocked and saddened to hear the news of Ted passing, he was a gentleman and will be missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Phil & Sally - P P Estates.
Published prior to March 2014
By Pete Molloy
My thoughts are with his family, how refreshing to hear a man like Ted talk so boldly about the city he is correct in all he says accountants etc run the show the retailers do not.
Published prior to March 2014
By Bob Vereen
I was so sorry to learn of Ted's passing. I knew him years ago when he was with Payless and always found him to be a first class merchant and gentleman.

Bob Vereen from the U. S.

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