PwC - 5 Days of Women
Female leadership in a fast-moving industry
The lack of female executives in some of the UK’s most successful businesses has been widely publicised in recent years, demonstrating that it’s more important now than ever to empower high-achieving women in the workplace. Sheffield-based wholesaler, Pricecheck International Brand Trading, is a local example of how strong female leadership can be instrumental at every level of a company.
Pricecheck specialises in the distribution of discount, branded fast-moving consumer goods, from toiletries and cosmetics to food and drink, and is unique to the trading industry in a number of ways. Its diverse selection of product lines, family-centric business structure and young, dynamic team are all innovative aspects of this business. However Joint Managing Director, Debbie Harrison, has her very own unique selling point: she is one of the very few female leaders in an indisputably male-dominated industry.
Pricecheck was founded by Debbie and Mark Lythe’s parents in 1978 and, from a young age, the siblings were heavily involved in the business’ operations. Debbie joined the company full-time at the age of eighteen as a receptionist, before going onto accounts and working as PA to the then Trading Director, Doug Lythe. Debbie’s natural tenacity and ambitiousness soon led her onto the trading floor, and she and brother Mark took over full management of the business in 2007.
With a fast-moving industry comes demanding roles as Managing Directors, requiring versatility and flexibility in an ever-changing market. Combine this with international partnerships in over 75 countries worldwide and a continuously expanding workforce, which currently stands at 130 staff members, and it’s clear to see that directing a company of Pricecheck’s stature is no easy feat.
Debbie doesn’t shy away from providing the company’s high-achieving females with abundant opportunities for growth, demonstrated through the senior women in buying, sales, HR and business development departments. The drive for harnessing young talent is also evident throughout the company, with numerous industrial placement and graduate roles offered each year, giving abundant opportunities to young men and women with ambitions in trading, finance and IT, to name a few.
The rapid growth of the business during Debbie and Mark’s ten years at the helm is not only evident in the increased staff numbers; the turnover has more than quadrupled in this time, to a forecasted £73m in 2018, up from £17m in 2007. During the decade of their directorship, Pricecheck has also received a number of prestigious awards, including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade in 2015.
Although Debbie is brave and ambitious in her role as a key female figure within the wholesaling industry, she is aware of where her weaknesses lie however, vitally, she knows how to recruit effectively to fill these areas. By their own admission, Debbie and Mark are entirely different in how they work and where their skillsets lie, which is perhaps the reason their joint management works so well.
While the Pricecheck team are hurtling towards another record-breaking year, their story shows how keeping core family values intact can create abundant opportunity for both male and female talent to emerge, in a dynamic and ever-changing industry.