As Retail Trust gets ready to celebrate its 175th anniversary this month, the charity is hoping to receive a bumper birthday present: an additional £5 million to boost the charity's support for people in the industry.
According to Retail Trust, three million people currently work in retail, yet only 6% are aware that the charity exists. The charity hopes to double awareness by 2009.
The aim of the organisation, which changed its name in 2001 from Cottage Homes to better reflect the extent of its services, is to support the retail industry - both current or retired employees - by offering retirement homes, training and education, scholarships, grants and bursaries and a telephone helpline to advise on work-related or personal issues. The helpline, which was set up 10 years ago, currently receives an average of 150 calls per month.
To increase awareness of its work, Retail Trust has set up the 175 Campaign, an initiative which aims to raise £5m in two years. The charity, which has an annual income of £1.5m, needs the cash to support its services as awareness - and demand - increases.
"We are the retail industry's best-kept secret," says Retail Trust chief executive Nigel Rothband. "The 175 Campaign will act as a springboard for us to promote what we do and give more back to those who work in retail. Four years ago we gave £90,000 in grants. By 2011, we want to take that figure to £1m."
Retail Trust has recruited a team of four specialists, headed up by campaign director Cameron Wood, to oversee the 175 Campaign. "We need to re-engage with the industry," Wood explains. "There are very few charities today that support a particular trade and our market research told us that Retail Trust is still relevant today - people want and need the service."
The 175 campaign will kick off on January 16 with a launch party at the Lanesborough Hotel in Knightsbridge, London, for all 175 Campaign patrons. The Retail Trust will outline its targets and explain how retailers can get involved. There are currently 25 patrons of the 175 Campaign, including Marks & Spencer's Stuart Rose, Arcadia's Sir Philip Green, Mosaic's Derek Lovelock and Peacocks' Richard Kirk.
The first fundraising event will be the charity's London Ball on January 29 at Grosvenor House on London's Park Lane, where the aim will be to raise £1m - almost double the amount raised last year. With table sales already ahead of schedule and guests from Marks & Spencer, Arcadia, Baugur and Debenhams already confirmed, Wood is confident of reaching the target.
But the crux of the campaign will be the Retail Trust Week. From May 11-17, the charity has asked its patrons to raise money in their stores and hope their efforts will add a further £200,000 to the £5m pot. So far, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Moss Bros and Superdrug have pledged support.
The charity has appointed design and advertising agency Dekko to mastermind the Retail Trust Week for participating retailers. Packs have been sent to retailers, with suggestions on how to raise money.
"We have called it the Everyday Hero Campaign because it's a metaphor for the way in which Retail Trust works - it sits neatly with its ethos," says Dekko managing director Kate Barker. "We're asking retailers to do small things, like an individual pledging to make everybody's tea for a day. It's not about outrageous fundraising acts."
Dekko has asked retailers to introduce a competitive element to the week by offering prizes - such as an extra day's holiday - for the biggest fundraisers.
Despite strong backing from key players in the industry, Retail Trust has yet to gain the support of the major supermarkets. The charity is in discussions with Sainsbury's and Tesco, but the relationship is still at an early stage. "Clothing at supermarkets is still a fairly new concept and the grocery sector also has its own charity, Caravan," says Wood. "Having said that, we do provide supermarket workers with a lot of financial support."
Perhaps a high-profile event at Buckingham Palace is the way to grab the attention of the likes of Tesco. The 175th anniversary also coincides with the Queen's 60th anniversary as the charity's patron. Retail Trust is in talks to hold a fundraising event at the palace, which could raise a large chunk of the £5m target. "It would be the sort of event that could attract a whole cross section of the industry, from shop-floor workers to chief executives," says Wood.
With the targets set by its 175 Campaign, Retail Trust is pushing the boundaries in terms of awareness and funds. But it does not end there. "Even though the 175 Campaign is a two-year initiative, our aim to raise awareness and funds is a long-term plan," says Rothband. "We've been guilty in the past of relying purely on our annual balls - this isn't enough any more. It is our responsibility to shout about what we do and to inspire the retail industry to become a part of it."
WHAT DOES RETAIL TRUST OFFER?
- A 24-hour helpline for work-related and personal problems
- Works with the British Retail Consortium to build a programme for managers to help deal with the trauma of critical incidents
- Offers access to a free legal helpline
- Offers grants and funding
- Liaises with benevolent organisations to secure benefits for applicants
- Financial assistance for funeral expenses, adaptations to the home, wheelchairs and mobility equipment, and respite breaks
Education and Training Programme
- Working in partnership with Skillsmart Retail, Campaign for Learning and retailers to promote retail education
- Providing scholarships and bursaries for courses leading to NVQ to MBA qualifications
- Sponsored places at the annual British Shops and Stores Association Oxford Summer School
- Retirement homes in London, Derby, Glasgow and Liverpool
- Access to financial assistance and information about state benefit entitlements
- Access to free counselling on problems such as abuse, general health and relationship issues
Who to contact
For general enquiries and the 175 Campaign call 020 8201 0110 or visit www.retailtrust.org.uk. For the confidential helpline call 0845 766 0113.