Tangram Technology Ltd. - Business Workshop Report 5 - Lakeland Limited

Business Workshop Report 5 
- Lakeland Limited






British Plastics Federation



The Business Workshops are supported by the DTI as part of the Partnership in Plastics (PIP) Programme. The Programme is designed to improve the competitiveness of the UK plastics processing industry by building links between major customers and small to medium enterprises (SMEs). The focus of the Business Workshops is on informing the SMEs of the changing needs of major customers and the means of meeting these needs.


Lakeland Limited is a family owned company and was established in 1963 to supply polyethylene freezer bags. The company is now a major UK mail order and retail supplier of creative kitchenware. All products are based on the theme of "innovative new products for an attractive home environment” and the company is now extending these operations to more general retailing to the same customer group.

Lakeland has a tightly defined customer profile and is very customer focused and customer driven. Believing and acting “customer focused” generates strong customer loyalty and customers become members of the Lakeland “family”. Delighting the customer begins with the packaging - items are not sent in a brown cardboard box but in a printed wrapping that clearly identifies the product as being from Lakeland. The customer experience begins when the product arrives at the door and not when the product is opened. All products have an “absolute satisfaction guarantee” and any staff member can refund a customer’s money without even seeing the “faulty” item. The item is not even returned and the customer disposes of the item as they see fit.

All the stakeholders in the business are considered to be interdependent and are responsible for the function and growth of the business. The suppliers innovate and develop, Lakeland provides customer service and pays the suppliers on time and the customers provide the driving force by purchasing the products. Trust and communication between the stakeholders is essential for business development and growth.


Lakeland has a product range of about 2500 products. Products may be on sale for as little as 6 months but some have been on sale since the company began trading. The performance of a new product is evident within 1 month of launch and unsuccessful products are abandoned without remorse. The company sources or develops approximately 700 new products per year. New products come from 4 main sources:

  • International exhibitions.
  • Customer suggestions: Up to 150 suggestions per week are sent in by the Lakeland “family”. The customers feel part of the company and customer suggestions feature strongly in the catalogues.
  • Contract development designers are used to produce ideas and concepts.
  • Product ideas from manufacturers and designers: These are sought and welcomed by the company for evaluation.

If a product passes the initial market evaluation then the producer is vetted according to the “Suppliers Manual” for criteria such as packaging, delivery, safety, quality, minimum employment standards (working hours, rest periods and minimum ages) and production hygiene requirements. Suppliers must not only supply products but also meet their social obligations to become an approved supplier. The Lakeland family includes the supplier’s workforce.


With over 13 new products per week it is inevitable that some products will fail to find a market demand. In this market, products that fail must be quickly abandoned and the company must move on to other products. Failure doesn’t matter if it is treated as a learning experience and is dealt with quickly. To succeed more often then you need to accept that you will also fail more often.


Lakeland’s demands from suppliers are typical of the FMCG sector:

  • Suppliers must be flexible in operations, speed of reaction is vital to meet changing demands and to keep the appropriate stock levels.
  • Suppliers must be dedicated to caring for the customer.
  • Suppliers must be innovative to meet and create customer demands.
  • Suppliers need to develop initial small quantities until success is proven.
  • Suppliers must use cost effective tooling (rapid prototyping and short run tooling) in the initial stages. The tooling risk can be spread in return for exclusive sales.
  • Suppliers should have a genuine desire to do business. Lakeland has found that accounting dominated companies can cause time delays and prefers to operate with “deal oriented” companies where the end result (serving the customer) is all-important.
  • Suppliers should have access to new materials and production technologies to give new products and services.
  • Suppliers should have export capacity to supply overseas partners and be prepared to give exclusive distribution to Lakeland.
  • Suppliers must constantly communicate with the retailer.


New product development is vital to Lakeland and the needs are:

  • Genuine product innovation instead of superficial design or colour changes.
  • Creative design from industry, colleges and young designers. Industry needs to support the design process more and to provide retailers with information on new products and processes.
  • Products manufactured from recycled materials. The materials and market opportunities are there (the customers are aware and questioning) and a market advantage can be achieved by the “recycled” labelling. A first step is products labelling to allow recycling after use. Even with limited product ranges there is an opportunity to tell a good story for recycled materials
  • Lakeland need product differentiation and individualised products i.e. they can sell the same basic product as other retailers but it must be a Lakeland product.
  • For product recycling, a registry of tools would make product finding easier. Opportunities for reintroducing products are often lost because the tooling cannot be located.

Lakeland Logo


“to exceed the customer’s expectations and to ensure that they are delighted with both the product and service they
Lakeland Limited Supplier Manual

Sandwich Box




Bread Slice


  • Air tight boxes and other food storage containers.
  • Kitchen utensils and tools.
  • General storage and racking applications
  • Washing, drying and cleaning items.
  • Functional packaging for cleaning and other materials.
  • Bins, bowls and other large plastic items.
  • Plastic storage and freezing bags.
  • Appliance housings.


  • Flexibility and customer focus is needed at all levels of the supply chain.
  • Genuine innovation using design, new materials and technology is needed.
  • Failure is part of learning and an ability to recover quickly and move on is more important.
  • Short runs and low tooling costs are needed before product viability is proven.
  • Recycled products offer a market opportunity for retailers and producers.


This is a major market for plastics and is predicted to grow in the future. Growth will be not only in materials substitution and the increased use of recycled materials but also from design innovations and unique products.

The PiP Programme consists of a range of activities including:

  • Business Workshops and Reports
  • Plasticity Seminars
  • Pentamode Code of Practice

Note: Any opinions expressed in this Business Workshop Report represent those of the author and not necessarily those of the BPF, DTI or Lakeland Limited.

Produced for the PiP Programme by Tangram Technology Ltd. (info@tangram.co.uk)

For further information about the PiP Programme contact:

The British Plastics Federation
6 Bath Place
Rivington Street
London EC2A 3JE
Tel: 020 7457 5000
Fax: 020 7457 5045

This Business Workshop Report is based on the results of a PiP Business Workshop held in October 1999. The customer viewpoint at the Workshop was presented by Mr. Martin Rayner of Lakeland Limited.

November 1999

All logos and trademarks acknowledged. The assistance of Lakeland Limited in the provision of logos and artwork is also gratefully acknowledged.