Retail Trust

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Retail Trust's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Retail Trust is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Chief Executive Richard Boland
Established in 1832, retailTRUST improves
the lives of everyone involved in retail
As probably one of the oldest trade charities in the UK,
dating back to 1832, retailTRUST was founded by an
artisan entrepreneur appropriately named Thomas Helps.
It offers specialist services for the 4.5 million people working
in the retail and supporting services sector in the UK. Its work
seeks to improve the lives of these people through wellbeing
services, vocational and career development programmes and
retirement estates. Chief Executive Richard Boland elaborates.
As a charity with such an extensive heritage, we have much to live up to and much
that is admired, and we are not immune to the rapidly unfolding changes that
are besetting every corner of society. These challenges include the questioning of
the relevance of the traditional benevolent charity, the disruption caused by the
onset of the digital connected world and the emergence of the social enterprise
phenomena. Add to these considerations, the self-inflicted behavioural and
reputational issues that have engulfed far too many charities and it is easy to see
why some might question why anyone would join or support the sector.
In 2012, when our existing management team started working together, the
challenges we faced were strategic and structural. We faced the issue of how to
sustain ourselves in the modern world with so many competing calls upon the
hard-earned cash of the 4.5 million, largely low-paid colleagues in our industry.
Trade charities do not have the universal emotive appeal of a charity supporting, for
example, those with cancer, disadvantaged children, refugees, or animals, but we
are not driven by a single cause, but by a very diverse set of needs.
»Chief Executive: Richard Boland
»Founded in 1832
»Based in London, with offices
in Derby, Glasgow, Liverpool
and Salford
»No. of employees: Over 100
»Services: Support retail
workers in the UK
Highlighting best practice
Wellbeing in retail
We exist to improve the lives of all
involved with retail by addressing
their needs at times of distress,
disadvantage and hardship. We
embarked upon a strategy of delivering
this by looking at what we considered
the four pillars of wellbeing in any
community: physical wellness, mental
wellness, financial wellness and
vocational or educational wellness.
Having clearly established our key
ambitions, we needed to resolve
how we would achieve them and
how we would fund them. Until we
knew how much we would be able to
fund, we couldn’t decide how much
impact our intervention might have.
This drove us to consider establishing
a social enterprise model, rather
than a traditional benevolent charity
structure. We established the concept
of paid-for services with the support
of the employers in our sector, who
were asked to help fund the wellbeing
services for their staff in order to
supplement the income we already
received through philanthropic giving.
This has enabled us to more than triple
the scale of our wellness programmes.
This process has been achieved
through the utilisation of social
enterprise values, whereby any
surpluses generated are reinvested
to develop more support tools and
programmes. In 2018, we began to
move most of our physical and mental
wellness support to a digital platform,
alongside the remote and face-to-
face support that had previously been
provided. We are evolving from a
186-year-old benevolent charity into
a 21st-century, digitally enabled social
enterprise, and in so doing we are
tripling our impact.
Through our financial wellness
programme, we sponsored the
creation of the first ever credit union
dedicated to serving retail staff, which
now provides affordable loans and
sustainable savings rates to the less
financially aware and those of modest
means. We hope that retailCURe, as
it is known, will become the largest
credit union in the UK, as it has the
largest common bond. It took four
years to gain approval from the PRA
and FCA, with initial discussions
having started in 2013. For regulatory
reasons it is a standalone legal entity
but it was sponsored and funded
to a large extent by ourselves and
leading retailers including John Lewis,
Iceland, Debenhams, Next, New
Look, Schuh, Ted Baker and the Theo
Dylan lives with
Duchenne muscular
dystrophy and when he
lost the ability to walk,
Tanya contacted us for
a welfare grant to adapt
their home
We exist to
improve the
lives of all
involved with
retail by
their needs at
times of
and hardship
Collaborating with industry
In 2015, we were encouraged by several
leaders in our industry to address the
needs of disadvantaged people who
were seeking a first job in retail or
looking to get back into the sector
following a period of unemployment due
to ill health, parenthood or redundancy.
From this project we have developed the
newest of our social enterprise-inspired
services in the area of vocational and
educational support, which has helped
over 5,000 people since 2013 improve
their life chances through social inclusion
and mobility. More than 2,000 of those
were classified as NEETs and are now in
work, mostly in retail.
The structural issues we faced included
the funding for the refurbishment of
our retirement estates for people who
have spent their lives working in retail.
While the work we have completed,
and continue to work on, in this area is
highly valued by the public authorities,
the industry and private individuals,
it was becoming increasingly difficult
to raise voluntary funding for the
significant losses being incurred and we
were unable to put aside enough cash
for future capital expenditureneeds.
In response, we started an all-
embracing programme to create a
self-sustaining business model for
the supported living estates. We are
proud that for each of the last three
years the estates are not only self-
sustaining but providing for their own
future capital expenditure needs. This
has been delivered through changing
the mindset from that of a traditional
benevolent charity, which requires
funding, to a social enterprise that
is able to fund itself sustainably. The
improvement has been dramatic but
has been driven by a change in culture
with regard to cost management,
asset optimisation, segmentation of
services and proactive approaches to
A transformation has taken place
in moving a passive charity from
behaviours born in the 20th century
towards making it a dynamic,
proactive 21st-century social
enterprise hybrid that thrives on the
key values of care, innovation and
trust. In the digital age the most
important value is being innovative.
Changing the
mindset from
that of a
charity, which
funding, to a
social enterprise
that is able to
fund itself
sustainably – the
The new Retail Leader
Apprenticeship Degree
will support at least 400
retail employees in the
first year

This article was sponsored by Retail Trust. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister