We want to be more than a gift shop. We want the Trust to be a lifestyle brand and destination of choice for shoppers

Published : Sun 1st Nov Author : Claire McPherson, Assistant Merchandiser

Claire McPherson is Assistant Merchandiser for our central Garden, Home Accessories and Books ranges, based at our HQ in Heelis. Here she gives us an insight into the diversity of merchandising at the Trust, exciting potential products and making the Trust a shopping destination of choice.

Before joining the Trust I had been working in Buying at WHSmith’s head office, but I’m a very analytical person with a flair for numbers, and eventually realised that my skills and personality were much more suited to merchandising. So three and a half years ago I started as a temp at the Trust, before working my way up to my current role.

To work in buying and merchandising at the Trust, you need to be really passionate about the products and where they’ve come from. It’s an incredibly diverse and complex organisation, so there’s a lot of variety in the projects you’re working on, and because each of the Trust’s properties has its own history, each Retail Manager wants their shop to reflect the uniqueness of their property.

I work in a team of around 30 at Heelis, and our team structure is broken down into four product teams who manage the entire central range. Here we work out what merchandise will be allocated to each shop by looking at how much space we have available and then based on sales history, we break down each space by department before determining the right products for the shop.

We build up our ranges by breaking products down into two areas – core and seasonal. So, in Home Accessories an example of core would be our best-selling polka dot throw; then for this summer, we had a stunning coastal range which sold really well.

All three of the departments I look after have seen growth in the past few years. Books in particular can be quite a challenging market, but we’ve still managed to maintain this area and achieve some interesting areas of growth. For example, we’ve identified children’s books as an area of huge opportunity, and have recently been looking at possible collaborations with publishers, so watch this space!

As an organisation, we’re really trying to develop our brand and incorporate more of our identity into our shops. We also want to move away from being just a gift shop and become more of a lifestyle brand and destination of choice for shoppers.