AIS buying group names Sue Kemp its new MD as Sheila Cooper retires after 40 years

Associated Independent Stores has appointed Sue Kemp to the role of managing director as part of the buying group’s wider transformational agenda, and following the retirement of its former MD, Sheila Cooper, who leaves after 40 years with the company.

AIS is recognised as the largest independent non-food buying group of its kind in the UK and Ireland, providing members with access to major brands across an expanse of merchandise categories. Most notably for the toy industry, it is the home of the toys, hobby, and games focused Play-Room.

Now taking the helm at AIS, Kemp’s 30 years experience will come into play at a crucial time of evolution for the business as she provides leadership, supports staff and clients, and ensures targets are achieved. 

The appointment forms part of what AIS has billed as a ‘wider transformational plan for the business’, with Kemp taking AIS through ‘an exciting period of change’.

The group is set to become more commercial and customer focused, and Kemp has already kicked this off with the creation of a new Furniture and Home division at AIS. This is the first in a number of changes to strengthen the group’s offering and enhance value and choice for its members. 

Kemp’s experience in retail- and customer-focused industries, such as Merlin Entertainments and Marks and Spencer, as well as her engaging and people-focused approach, led to her being selected for the MD role.

She said: “I’m thrilled to be part of a thriving business supporting independent retailers across the UK – now more than ever. I was attracted to AIS as it’s a perfect mix of my experience, knowledge and expertise – not to mention the wealth of opportunities available working for such a successful business.

“AIS has grown and evolved with the fast-changing retail environment, and I look forward to developing the business yet further. I’m particularly focused on supporting my dedicated and talented team as we navigate these uncertain times together with a robust and exciting plan as we look to the future.”

Stephen McCammon, chairman of the AIS Board, said: “The board is delighted to have the opportunity to work with Sue, to navigate the journey ahead and begin to write this next chapter in our shared history. She’s perfectly placed to lead our team, developing the group and growing our members’ profitability as we continue to evolve.”

AIS is the largest independent non-food buying group of its type in the UK and Ireland. With around 300 members, all independent retailers of varying sizes, and with a combined turnover in excess of £2 billion, its mission is to increase its members profitability.

A not-for-profit organisation, AIS further drives member return through a diverse revenue stream which includes unique fashion and home trade shows; a 3,000 square metre, purpose-built conference, event and exhibition venue, and premium office space in the heart of the Midlands.

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