It is with great sadness that the family of Philip Hart, retired managing director of Harts of Stur, has announced his passing after a short illness, on Saturday 9 April, peacefully and with his family at his side.
When Philip, a fresh-faced Tesco management trainee, joined the family business in 1979 it was a successful agricultural steel fabrication and hardware business. He soon set to work steering this well-established business in a new direction, turning it into a thriving country department store. Taking over directorship from his father Eddie in the early 90s, and never one to stand still, Philip grew the business steadily over the years, exploring new possibilities, recognising what was successful and adapting the business accordingly. Throughout Philip’s tenure as MD of Harts he turned the company into one of the most forward-thinking and innovative businesses in the industry. One notable success was his recognition at an early stage of the importance of the internet, and all the opportunities it provided. A pioneering and visionary businessman, he consistently raised the bar to new heights, setting the benchmark for others to follow.
Family was another very important part of Philip’s life. His two sons, Johnathan and Graham, joined the business after attending university and he treated his employees as extended family, forging strong loyalties. His larger than life personality, wicked sense of humour and infectious laugh never failed to put a smile on your face, but he was also a much respected pillar of the local community, providing much needed employment to a rural area, initiating and contributing to local events and supporting local charities with vigour and passion.
Philip relinquished his custodianship of the business in 2019, the same year that Harts celebrated their centenary, handing the reins to his two sons, Johnathan and Graham along with David and Kirsty, two long-serving members of staff. Philip still played an active role in the company, overseeing an ambitious expansion plan which included a new garden department and Coffee Loft, where he could regularly be found enjoying a coffee.
Philip will be greatly missed by all who knew him – from friends and family, his extended work family, customers, fellow retailers and industry colleagues. The cremation will take place at Yeovil Crematorium at 2pm on Thursday 5 May.