Retail venture approaches £1m milestone

A pioneering retail venture has benefited dozens of budding entrepreneurs and generated almost £1m of sales since its launch three years ago.

In 2014 Gateshead College and shopping centre owner intu teamed up to create an environment where students and retail entrepreneurs could sell their products to the public.

Based in intu Metrocentre in Gateshead, handPICKED provides entrepreneurial students with the chance to showcase their retail flair and grow their fledgling start-up businesses.

Gateshead College secured £50,000 of funding from NatWest to launch the venture, a social enterprise which allows students to trial their ideas in an authentic retail environment before going to market on their own. It also enables local traders and craft-makers to stock their handmade gifts and accessories in the store and sell them to the public.

The project was extended following an initial 18-month trial and to date it has supported 120 students and 84 businesses, generated a total of £948,811 in sales and created jobs for 30 local staff including four apprentices.

Judith Doyle, principal and chief executive of Gateshead College, said: “This initiative has given many students valuable retail experience and the opportunity to develop wider skills that will enable them to succeed in business. Knowing how to research the market thoroughly, promote products effectively and build a good rapport with customers are excellent qualities that employers in all sectors look for.

“We want our students to be the most highly prized in the jobs market. We equip them with entrepreneurial knowledge and employability skills that will benefit companies or enable them to start their own business venture.”

Gavin Prior, general manager of intu Metrocentre, said: “We are proud to support emerging entrepreneurs with the vision and drive to succeed in the highly competitive retail world. handPICKED has produced dozens of work-ready, professional entrepreneurs and enabled them to acquire skills that have benefited our business and those of our tenants.”

The partnership between Gateshead College and intu has so far provided students with several exciting opportunities, including handPICKED and the intu Retail Academy, a training scheme delivered by the college to encourage retail, hospitality and customers service careers within intu Metrocentre and Eldon Square in Newcastle.