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Trust Issues: In nearly 200 years, our cause has never been more relevant

Guest Post: By Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive, the Retail Trust. On Tuesday 3 January 1832, a group of retailers and merchants gathered at the London Coffee… View Article


Trust Issues: In nearly 200 years, our cause has never been more relevant

Guest Post: By Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive, the Retail Trust.

On Tuesday 3 January 1832, a group of retailers and merchants gathered at the London Coffee House; what we now believe to be the site of the Jamaica Wine House in London’s Cornhill.

By all accounts it was a hugely invigorating meeting, with a story in The Times newspaper the next day reporting bold proclamations and “immense cheering” throughout.

But the founding meeting of what was then the Linen, Drapers, Silk-Mercers, Haberdashers, Hosiers and Lacemen Institution had a clear purpose and serious aim: ‘organising a benevolent union of these trades, to encourage the poor and meritorious of their several bodies.’

And its chairman Thomas Helps, himself a small artisan retailer, described that it would ‘promote the happiness and interests of those engaged in the trade, whose industry, integrity, and character were too often insufficient to rescue them from suffering and want.’

More than 189 years later, these holding principles continue to drive Retail Trust’s cause today. As a charity, we have responded to so many changes within the retail industry since that coffee house meeting in 1832 that our founders could not have possibly conceived. This last year alone has seen demand for our financial aid and counselling services hit record levels due to the pandemic’s devastating impact on shops and businesses up and down the country.

But the Retail Trust’s purpose of creating hope, health and happiness for everyone in retail has remained steadfast during all this time caring for and protecting the lives of people who work in the sector. We believe in it so passionately that our charity has now become a movement with this as its cause.

Last month we transformed our brand identity, drawing on the Retail Trust’s proud heritage with colours and logos that reflect those used across our history along with new branding to ensure our identity and values pay tribute and stay relevant to all our colleagues in the diverse and dynamic world of retail. And our purpose of creating hope, health and happiness remains central to it all. We believe the health of our colleagues is the foundation they need to flourish in both work and life. And this will also help create a more sustainable and successful future for retail.

That is why we have also now launched a new report, ‘The health of retail’, to provide retail leaders with the latest data, insight and trends to help shape their people strategies into 2022. We conducted in-depth interviews with human resource directors and chief people officers at some of the UK’s household name retailers and carried out surveys with around 1,800 people working in retail to build the findings and recommendations from this report.

It found that mental health awareness at work may be growing, but middle managers now face undue pressure to counsel their teams. It showed that more work needs to be done in developing mental health at work plans that provide a measurable impact on staff wellbeing. And it identified a need for retailers to better support their teams, both formally and informally, against a rising tirade of abuse exacerbated by the pandemic. It is free to download here.

We know that there is still much more work for the Retail Trust on the horizon as the full scale of the impact of COVID-19 becomes apparent. In the almost 200 years since we were founded to create a ‘lasting legacy of right principle’ for those in the trade, I believe our cause has never been more relevant. If you need to access our support, contact the Retail Trust’s free and confidential wellbeing helpline on 0808 801 0808.

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