Lincolnshire Co-op announces Alison Hands as new CEO

Hands will join in April, following the retirement of current CEO Ursula Lidbetter in December

Lincolnshire Co-op has appointed Alison Hands as its new chief executive officer. 

Current CEO Ursula Lidbetter announced her retirement in March after 37 years with the society, 18 of those as its chief executive. She will retire at the end of December, with Hands joining in April. Steve Galjaard, chief financial officer, will become acting CEO alongside his current role, during the transition.

Hands is currently managing director at Wilko, and will bring over 33 years of experience in a diverse mix of retail environments, including Marks and Spencer, the Body Shop, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Boots Opticians. 

“I’m honoured to be joining this values-driven organisation, which continues to build on its success, whilst delivering its purpose to make life better in communities,” she said. “I’m excited to be charged with leading the society through the next phase of its development, as we collectively tackle the challenges of the current external environment.”

Chair David Cowell said the society had “flourished” under Lidbetter’s leadership and described how she will be “leaving Lincolnshire Co-op in a great position for the future”.

He added: “We welcome Alison to the society with the knowledge she will continue this good work and help us move forward. She brings a wealth of experience and insight, as well as a deep understanding of bricks and mortar retail and what that means to customers. She’s also passionate about our purpose and values.

“I’d like to thank Ursula, my fellow board of directors, the senior leadership team and our colleagues for supporting this process.”

Lidbetter joined the society in 1985 as a buyer and department manager – and as CEO, currently supports 300,000 members and 2,900 local colleagues in Lincolnshire and the surrounding counties.

Her co-op career also saw her step up from November 2013 – February 2015 for a brief stint as chair of the Co-operative Group in the wake of its financial crisis, where she helped to steer it through the early stages of its rescue process.

She has also been at the helm of major projects including the creation of the Lincoln Science and Innovation Park and The Cornhill Quarter development in Lincoln. She received an OBE in 2019 for services to the local economy.

“I’ve served the society for nearly a quarter of our 161 years. Now feels the right time to pass the baton on,” Lidbetter said. 

“I’m looking forward to seeing how Lincolnshire Co-op develops under Alison’s leadership, working alongside the great team we have in place.”