Behind the Scenes: Q&A with Traidcraft’s Kirsty Young

We love keeping you updated on everything that’s going on here at Traidcraft HQ. This month, we grabbed our Merchandising Manager and Buyer, Kirsty Young, and quizzed her on all things Traidcraft; from where she sees Traidcraft in the future, to which products she loves the most and why.

Traidcraft PLC's Merchandising Manager and Buyer

Can you tell us a little bit about what your role at Traidcraft entails?
My role at Traidcraft can be split into two. As the Buyer, I’m responsible for all of the UK sourced products that Traidcraft sell – from Divine chocolate and Cafédirect coffee to the card ranges, fashion and trinket boxes
As the Merchandising Manager, I coordinate the sell-through of end of line or short shelf life products; and forecast for future seasons, alongside the wider team.

What drives you in your day to day?
I love that by coming to work, I’m making a difference; an impact to both people and the environment. Back in 2006, when I was in the Navy, I visited a little village in Sierra Leone called Tokeh village; all the children wanted were pens and pencils to go to school – to me this was such a foreign idea – surely everyone got an education? Then I went to a Tuberculosis and Leprosy hospital (if you can call it a hospital!) and saw the level of care that the people were receiving, I thought “there must be something I can do to help these people”. When I came to leave the Navy in 2007, I found a job in stock control for a company who sold Fairtrade goods – I thought “this is what I wanted for those people” and have worked within fair trade companies ever since.

Children learning in a school

What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy how varied my role is – one day I’m selecting Christmas cards and the next I’m selecting Easter Eggs.

Are there any challenges you face within your role?
This year has been a really tough year for us – we almost had to close our doors last December and so this year we’re running a really tight ship. We need to select a reduced range and order delivery of goods to match when we should see the sales; it isn’t an exact science and I don’t always rub that crystal ball hard enough! As such, we occasionally see delayed deliveries and out of stocks – we’re working hard to reduce this; but unfortunately, when you’re working to a tight cashflow, this is inevitable. In addition to this, we select products which need to be imported; with natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes etc, the producers can’t always meet shipping deadlines, then there’s potential customs issues – which then impact when we receive the deliveries, too.

How do you select the products in Traidcraft’s range?
I look at products that have performed well for us in previous years – and talk to our suppliers about their lines that perform well for them. I look at current and predicted trends to bring together a range of products that complement each other well. I also get lots of feedback from our customers which I take on board as much as possible, too.

Do you have a favourite product from the recently launched AW19 range / a favourite product of all time?
My favourite product from the AW19 range has got to be the 100% Recycled Polyester Scarf by Thought – at £34.90 it’s a great value for money product, without a negative impact on the environment. My favourite product of all time is the Muscovado White Chocolate – it’s similar to, but better than, a Caramac bar – but Fairtrade and Organic to boot – that makes it guilt free, right?!

What are your hopes for the future of Traidcraft?
My hopes are that Traidcraft will become a forerunner in the retail world again, challenging the status quo and not just going along with the norm. We were founded by rule breakers who wanted to fight trade injustice through trade across the world; and to some
 extent we have achieved what they set out to do – consumers are used to seeing the fairtrade logo on their products and understand what that means. We helped to make fairtrade mainstream; but we need to be constantly asking ‘what next?’ – what other injustices do we need to make the norm for consumers? What else can we do to support the producers that we’ve worked with and supported for years? 

Behind the Scenes with Traidcraft - Kirsty Young

I believe that the answer to this is to tackle climate change; our producers of coffee are moving up mountains to grow their crops, because the soil they’ve been using lower down isn’t good enough anymore to harvest; what happens when they run out of mountain?

Other producers have trouble meeting delivery deadlines due to floods and major rainfall; they can’t dry out the products before sending and if they send them when they’re damp, by the time we receive them they’re mouldy or bug infested… never mind earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts and other natural disasters, and the effects that they have on our producers!

So, I will be looking to buy products that are effecting a change in some way; recycled and upcycled, Organic, handmade and anything else that we can do to slow down the rate of our carbon emissions – we will not be the ones who are affected by this first – our producers will be; and we need to act now!

What do you look for when you shop?
I’d say I’m an extremely conscious shopper; I try not to buy things I don’t really need, which leaves me with extra money to spend on the things I do need. As far as clothing goes, I do try to buy a few key pieces of clothing from Thought each season, as I know each item is ethically sourced and will last for years and years to come. I’m very partial to their tunics and leggings – you know you’re investing in quality when buying anything Thought.

What is your most memorable moment at Traidcraft?
Actually, I have two particularly memorable moments which I couldn’t possibly choose between. My most memorable, personal moment at Traidcraft was completing the Great North Run, the largest half marathon in the world, and raising £860 for our sister charity, Traidcraft Exchange, in the process.

Work wise, getting together with a few colleagues and working on the business plan for a ‘new Traidcraft’, and preventing the business going into administration, were a memorable few months to say the least. Now, seeing the new, leaner and nimbler team working together to keep Traidcraft afloat has been well worth the effort and stress at the end of last year. It’s not a period of my life I’ll forget in a hurry…

Published at: 08-10-2019
Tags: Interview Traidcraft Behind the Scenes BTS