Suzanne Baker, Commercial & Property Director at Solihull based Stonegate Group, made history yesterday (Thursday 11 March) as she became the first winner to take home the newly established MCA Retailers’ Retailer Hero Award. The long-standing and prestigious awards introduced The Hero Award this year to recognise those hospitality business leaders who have gone above and beyond in steering their businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.
As a woman in a traditionally male industry, the win is testament to a career that has been characterised by resounding successes in the face of adversity. After becoming the youngest board member of Wetherspoons at just 33, Suzanne’s professional course has gone from strength to strength, and now sees her responsible for both the commercial and property interests of the largest pub company in the UK.
Throughout the pandemic, Suzanne orchestrated and managed the challenges presented with operating a huge and diverse supply chain, with the added intricacies presented by an enhanced estate after the purchase of Ei Group in March 2020, just two weeks prior to the first lockdown. On the eve of the crisis, Stonegate Group became the biggest pub company in the UK, operating not just as a managed business, but with the addition of the 4,000 strong Leased and Tenanted legacy Ei Group business.
Unflappable, calm and personable throughout, Suzanne’s role also expanded in 2020 to include the entire property portfolio, tripling her team and entrusting her with the responsibility of safely reopening and closing thousands of pubs multiple times. Expertly balancing her commercial and property functions, negotiating some of the biggest contracts in the sector, and maintaining the wellbeing of her 135-person team, have all earned her support, respect, and recognition within Stonegate and hospitality as a whole, while also consistently rendering Suzanne one of the most esteemed women in the sector.
The award comes as the hospitality industry prepares for what it hopes will be the last reopening process and with Suzanne at the helm of Stonegate’s trajectory out of lockdown, the company is on track for a smooth emergence from the restraints on the industry.
Simon Longbottom, CEO of Stonegate Group, said: “While Suzanne is often recognised for her expertise in the industry – and I say that with the full weight of the word ‘expert’, her experience, talent, and knowledge of the industry are unrivalled – it is her compassion, energy, enthusiasm and genuine love for hospitality that make her a cut above the rest.
“I am truly proud to work alongside Suzanne and wish her the greatest of congratulations in taking home this truly deserved Hero Award.”
Suzanne Baker said: “I was honoured to be nominated for this award and amongst my peers who have seen equally difficult times over the last year and steered their own companies through what has been an incredibly rough storm. However, I am utterly delighted to have won.
“My passion for the hospitality industry remains unwavering and I am looking forward to next month when we can begin to see our great industry begin to unfurl and continue to be the flagstone of British culture, a foundation in its economy, and the boost in national spirit that we all need and deserve after a hard worn 12-months.”
The Retailer’ Retailer Awards was hosted online for the first time in 2021 by comedian and impression Rory Bremmer. Ten awards were handed out during the ceremony that recognised standout figures and businesses within the hospitality industry.
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