Blyth man lands top job with retailer employing more than 700 people

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A Blyth man has been celebrating with his family after landing a top job in the retail industry.

Steve Browne has been appointed chief executive of the Heart of England Co-operative Society which employs more than 700 people.

He will head up an operation covering 37 food stores, 16 funeral homes and two coffee shops across Coventry, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.

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Mr Browne is currently general manager of the Society’s food division. His promotion followed an extensive recruitment process involving external consultants. He will succeed Ali Kurji who is to retire at the end of September following 42 years’ service, including 20 at the helm.

• Steve Browne, a former pupil at Blyth Ridley High School, will take over as chief executive• Steve Browne, a former pupil at Blyth Ridley High School, will take over as chief executive
• Steve Browne, a former pupil at Blyth Ridley High School, will take over as chief executive

Prior to joining the Heart of England Co-op in 2018, M Browne held a string of senior retail management positions including head of convenience at McColl’s Retail Group, retail operations director at Xcel Retail and head of retail at Nisa Retail.

In his early 20s, Mr Browne managed a Co-operative group food store before being appointed in 2003 as manager of Iceland Foods’ flagship store with 40 staff and a £3.5m turnover.

The 43-year-old executive, who attended Blyth Ridley High School from 1991 to 1998, described his promotion as ‘humbling.’

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“I admit to having had a lump in my throat over my parents’ joyous reaction to the news. I come from a loving family in Blyth who had little but offered so very much. It’s also a proud moment for my wife Karren and my two teenage daughters, Kacey and Olivia.”

He recently gained an MBA (Master of Business Administration) with a distinction at Coventry University and describes it is one of his most satisfying personal achievements.

Looking back on his career with the Heart of England Co-op, he says the most important and difficult task he has faced to date was steering the food business through the pandemic.

“Keeping my colleagues and customers safe and providing our communities with an important lifeline at their time of need was both hugely challenging and immensely rewarding.”

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Looking to the future, he pledges to lead the Society with ‘authenticity, integrity, transparency and passion.’

While Mr Browne is under no illusions regarding the size of the challenge, he is embracing his new role with ‘great excitement and not fear.’

“The prospect of growing the Heart of England Co-operative Society for the benefit of existing and new communities is something I am looking forward to immensely.”

The father-of-two spends part of the week working from his home in Blyth. In his leisure time he loves being out in his VW camper van with his family and going on walks with his Labrador, Isla.

He has a keen in sport, especially football, boxing, darts and golf, and also enjoys socialising and relaxing over a good film or box set.

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