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12 Gifts for Garden Centres April/May 2012 Home and holidays

Vintage caravan creates a stir

Retreat boss, Sam Green wanted a vintage caravan as a prop for her Spring/Summer range and spotted one on e-bay only to fall asleep at the crucial moment and miss it by five minutes and just £5.

She was determined to find

another and it wasn’t long before she snapped one up and then realised it was 500 miles away and needed a massive amount of work. But the end result was worth it and the little van – known as Constance - has been attracting huge attention at shows and shops across the country. It is this determination and

attention to detail that has helped Sam grow Retreat Home and Gift in just six years. As a former buyer, Sam understands both sides of the gift business and her past experience as been invaluable now she is working as a supplier. She originally trained as a buyer

at Harrods where she stayed for six years before moving to Laura Ashley. She had been responsible for huge budgets but when she set up on her

own she had just £3,000 and started with 50 lines that have expanded to 500.

She said: “I grew up

knowing that I wanted to be a fashion buyer and left school after A-levels to join Harrods as a

trainee and the scheme was fantastic. Each department is run like your own little shop and the ethos is that you should never ask someone to do something you don’t know how to do yourself. I covered everything including buying, public relations, marketing and shop floor.” Eventually Sam left to become

gift and lighting buyer at Laura Ashley and it was only when she had baby Louis that she decided long buying trips for the major chain store didn’t fit with caring for a new baby. Initially the Retreat Home and

Gift products reflected the trend for French-style chic but have gradually evolved to the current, good quality

homespun style. The latest Spring/Summer brochure is inspired by the ‘50s retro, glamping chic and the staycation trend’. Sam’s decision to source a

vintage caravan was inspired and provides the perfect backdrop for the current range of products. She was originally going to hire one but decided it made more sense to buy her own and use her husband’s building company to do the restoration work. She said: “ I don’t think I was

too popular when we realised it was so far away and it took days to get it back and then do it up” But already it has earned its keep, attracting buyers at shows and also being used for Mothers Day sales at a gift shop. Sam is full of admiration for

independent retailers who have to be masters of so many skills, she said. Asked for a tip Sam said retailers sometimes don’t make enough of best selling ranges and if something sells out it is always worth restocking and planning more sales on that line.

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