Sourcing special products on Dunham’s doorstep

Published : Sun 1st Nov Author : Ashlyn Collier, Retail Manager

Retail Manager Ashlyn Collier, has been at Dunham Massey for three years, and runs the largest shop in the North West region. Here she talks to us about sourcing special products, her personal favourites for Christmas, and why Dunham has been transformed from house to hospital!

I love the diversity in my role and having joined the Trust from a High Street retailer management scheme, you’re given so much more responsibility. Here I’m able to make high level decisions for the shop’s future, and I really feel like my voice is being heard.

Last year was an amazing year for us; as well as opening a brand new visitor centre we hosted a huge exhibition, ‘Sanctuary from the Trenches’, where we converted Dunham Massey back into a World War One hospital. The exhibition gained a lot of media coverage and we received an incredible number of visitors, which meant we exceeded our targets! 

When buying in new products at Dunham Massey, our priority is finding stock that fits our property theme, but is still locally sourced. The Trust’s buying structure is based on an 80/20 rule; 80% of stock comes from a centrally sourced line to ensure some level of consistency across all of the shops, and the other 20% I’m able to go out and source myself.

I’ll meet with other Retail Managers across the Trust twice a year to share ideas and best practice, as well as discuss what products we want to stock. Often, we’ll look to identify gaps in the central product line and try to fill this with some really special, locally sourced products.

However, unique products can also end up being rolled out centrally. One of our most popular is a horse’s head made of sculptured recycled teak wood, originally bought in by the team from Nyman. It became so popular that the Trust placed it in a number of other shops, before it was eventually rolled out nationwide.

At the moment, we’re trying to promote more delicious local food and unique crafts, and we’ve recently launched a new range of products for the shop. We regularly visit local markets and artisan craft fairs in the area, where we often stumble upon some fantastic local businesses, and invite them to become a supplier. Products can even be sourced from the property itself; for example one of our suppliers Lucinda Brito, collects wood from Dunham Massey and uses a chainsaw to create wildlife sculptures!

With Christmas on the horizon, this is one of our most successful times. While we do have fewer visitors at this time of year, they tend to spend more as they’re looking for gifts. We have a fantastic selection of ideas for Christmas, including a gorgeous selection of food, and our autumnal cookbooks are great for inspiration. We also have some beautiful scarves which are exclusive to the National Trust, and inspired by different materials from across our other properties.