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N A NUTSHELL, how did the retail side of the National Trust come about and what are their goals and aspirations now? I’m not sure exactly when the retail business started but, as a charity, income generation is a fundamental to us being able to carry on our conservation work, and the commercial activities – of which retail – is one is a very important part of this.

How many retail outlets does the National Trust have, both at properties and elsewhere? There are 200 shops, of which about 15 are on High Streets rather than at our properties.

Which is the biggest outlet? Highest turnover varies from year to year between Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and Sissinghurst or Chartwell in Kent but is hugely infl uenced by visitor numbers which in turn will be affected by weather etc.

What percentage of visitors to the NT properties visit the store and buy items? This varies hugely by property depending on whether the shop is on the visitor route and whether they have to exit through the gift shop.

How many people are on the buying team and do you have separate teams or buyers for different products, such as stationery and gifts? As with any major retailer, we have buyers who specialise in specifi c categories and they are supported by assistant buyers and a merchandising team. There are three full-time buyers and one part-time buyer

What makes a good buyer for the National Trust, and do you work on your own initiative or are you briefed?

Like all buyers, to put together a successful range you need to understand what your customers want in terms of product type, design, quality and price. We’re all involved in the design and range-development process. Once we’ve agreed the range strategy we then all go off and work on developing and sourcing products that fi t the brief.

If someone has a product, card or gift, they want to pitch to you, how should they go about that? Submit samples to the relevant buyer with cost prices and RRPs, understanding that we are working approximately one year in advance.

How do you choose which products to stock? They have to fulfi l the range strategy for that season as well as the sourcing policies of the Trust which vary by category and product type.

What season are you buying for currently? We are just fi nishing summer 2014 and are about


,to start autumn/winter. We don’t buy specifi cally for Valentines, Mother’s Day and Easter.

Do you attend any of the trade shows and, if so, how important do you fi nd them? Yes, we attend all the major shows and some more specialist ones depending on our product specialisms. They are vital whether we’re looking to develop own- brand products or buy products off the shelf. They’re a god way of picking up on trends for products and packaging, fi nding new suppliers and meeting suppliers and industry experts – you really can’t afford not to go.

How niche do you make products and, apart from these, do you stock different products stocked in different regions or properties, or do you keep the same formula everywhere? This is actually the area I started on when I joined the Trust in 2003. All shops can stock an amount of non- centrally-bought product, be it from local suppliers,

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Traditional retail is changing, publishers know they have to look beyond the High Street to find outlets and routes to market. With a small but perfectly- formed greetings section the National Trust has grown into a respected retailer of both cards and gifts. Here their stationery buyer Henri Davis talks to Greetings Today.

● Henri Davis is an independent retail advisor to businesses in the stationery, card and gift industries who combines 30 years of retail experience with her knowledge of consumer motivation to analyse markets and identify new opportunities. She works with many small and medium-sized businesses, including multi-site retailers, national and international manufacturers and suppliers having worked at Habitat, Next, WH Smith and, currently, the National Trust.

relevant to the history of the property or property- specifi c souvenir-type products that carry their name or image. There are very clearly defi ned criteria that have to be fulfi lled before an item can be stocked and, in some cases, centrally-approved suppliers have to be used but we believe it’s vitally important for properties to stock products that refl ect local traditions, crafts and recipes and support local businesses as well as the products that refl ect the individual properties’ spirit of place.

Do you have in-house card and gift designers too? We don’t have product designers but we do have a graphic designer.

How important is licensing to the National Trust, especially licensing-out of images and patterns from the NT archives and collections? Licensing is an important part of our commercial

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