It’s a big year for Lees of Scotland

Confectionery firm marking major milestone

Lees of Scotland chief executive Clive Miquel plans to celebrate the big birthday

A LOT has changed since John Justice Lees, the son of a grocer, set up his confectionery business in Coatbridge in 1931.

Some things would be recognisable to Lees today however, not least of all the Lees  of Scotland Macaroon bar, invented by Lees in the premises above his father’s shop on Newlands Street – a short walk from where Lees modern factory sits today.

Today, the Lees of Scotland brand is under the care of chief executive Clive Miquel, who is keen to celebrate the milestone – despite the challenges of pandemic restrictions.

“We would normally plan something big to celebrate such a huge milestone, however the current circumstances limit us.

“We’ll certainly be marking the occasion throughout the year, on a smaller scale, with employee engagement activity, engagement with the community and we’ll also be looking at new partnerships,” he said.

As part of the Lees of Scotland anniversary celebrations, the firm has created a logo to mark the occasion which will feature across the brand’s marketing material throughout 2021.

This year, Miquel said marketing activity will be focused on the trade, following a flurry of consumer-facing activity in recent years.

Lees of Scotland has been serving up confectionery to consumers for 90 years

Local school kids will also be taking part in celebrations, with Lees of Scotland planning a project with a Coatbridge primary school.

The confectionery firm has previously run a Dragon’s Den style competition with a local school, and Miquel said this year’s activity will offer something similar.

“Basically, we will give them a brief. For the Dragon’s Den they were given a budget and they had to come up with a campaign for Lees and they had to design a pack and come up with some advertising proposals.

“With regard to the 90th anniversary, it might be something along similar lines, we’ll certainly give them a brief and wait and see what they come up with,” he said.

This year should also hopefully see a return to more normal trading for Lees, Miquel said, as the firm was impacted by the closure of the hospitality sector during the pandemic.

While Lees of Scotland will strive to see its foodservice turnover return to pre-pandemic levels, Miquel also  sees opportunities for growth in Scotland’s independent sector.

Lees of Scotland’s core retail business is with the major supermarkets, but the firm also has plenty of wholesale routes to market, working with JW FIlshill, CJ Lang and Nisa.

And Miquel suggested Lees of Scotland’s provenance gives it a leg-up on some of the competition in the competitive confectionery category.

“I think retailers are supportive of Scottish brands. During the course of the year there are special features for Scottish products and that’s very helpful.

“Obviously, Scotland is famous for its food and drink and we’re proud to be part of that story. It’s good that retailers and independent stores look at that,” he said.

For independent stores looking to bolster their Scottish credentials on the confectionery fixture, Miquel advised stocking up on Lees of Scotland Snowballs, Teacakes and  Macaroon Bars, and added that they may wish to consider the broader Lees bars range.

“Our products are a bit different, they’re value for money, they look good on the shelf and certainly with our confectionery range we always say that you’ve got a lot of big players in the market and we’re something different,” he said.