Winter shopping in mid-summer

Rebecca Hooper, Country Harvest
Rebecca Hooper, Country Harvest

Attending trade fairs to find unusual and beautiful items to sell here at Country Harvest is one of my favourite tasks - but it can feel a bit odd, particularly at this time of year.

Nice sunny weather and I’m shopping for winter woollies. We buy seasonally but usually six months in advance. It’s always an exciting time though as the collections of Seasalt, Joules, Regatta and Tulchan clothing just seem to get better and better and the number of gift suppliers is endless.

I’ve just finished my NVQ in Visual Merchandising at Kendal College and that really helped me work on how to display items and the psychology behind colours and buying patterns. It’s a fascinating aspect of the business – and of course my dad (who owns Country Harvest) has been in retail most of his life so there are lots of interesting, sometimes heated, discussions when we get together for Sunday lunch.

When I’m buying, I either travel to the suppliers’ showroom or the trade shows in Birmingham and Glasgow. They’re great but really long, tiring days.

My next one is in July in Harrogate where I’ll be selecting home and gifts for next year. I’ll be looking at thousands of products in one day and sometimes I think I should wear a pedometer as a colleague reckons we walk up to 15 miles when we go to the shows, certainly at the NEC Birmingham. I often see products at the shows that I love, but I constantly have to remember that I’m not buying for myself but for our customers.

We have a loyal core customer that probably wouldn’t be interested in a six foot glitzy flamingo - but it was fabulous!

The summer products are in full swing now, but to tell you the truth I’m looking forward to Christmas! We bought our stock in January and I can’t wait for it to be delivered.

It’s my favourite time of year and I love turning Country Harvest into a winter wonderland – although a lot of the team here have banned me from talking about it until at least September.