An innovative commercial retail venture has achieved several notable milestones since its launch four years ago. Led by Gateshead College and shopping centre owner intu, handPICKED has generated £1.1m of sales and created 32 jobs since getting off the ground in 2014. It has also supported 152 students and 70 local businesses.
Based in intu Metrocentre in Gateshead, the venture is a social enterprise which enables students and retail entrepreneurs to sell their products to the public. Local traders and craft-makers can also stock their handmade gifts and accessories in the store.
The aim of handPICKED is to give entrepreneurial students the opportunity to grow their fledgling start-up businesses or trial their ideas in an authentic retail environment before going to market on their own.
Gateshead College secured £50,000 of funding from NatWest to launch the project, which was extended following an initial successful 18-month trial.
Kevin Marston, assistant principal for curriculum innovation at Gateshead College, said: “It’s fantastic that this unique initiative has reached these impressive milestones. handPICKED has brought so many benefits to businesses, students and the wider community. It has helped students to gain valuable retail experience and develop essential skills that employers in all sectors are looking for.
“Knowing how to promote products effectively, deciding whether there’s a market for them and looking after the finances are key attributes that will stand students in good stead in their chosen careers.”
Gavin Prior, regional centre director of intu Metrocentre, said: “handPICKED equips students with the skills, vision and entrepreneurial drive to succeed in the highly competitive world of retail. We’re extremely proud to be working with Gateshead College on this initiative, which has been of great benefit to intu, our tenants and other local companies.”
The productive partnership between Gateshead College and intu has provided students with several exciting opportunities, including handPICKED and intu Retail Gold, a training academy run by the college to encourage retail, hospitality and customer service careers within intu Metrocentre and Eldon Square in Newcastle. The academy benefits intu by enabling the company to develop the next generation of retail talent.
Image left to right: Gavin Prior of intu Metrocentre; student Kieran Armstrong and Kevin Marston of Gateshead College