Beckie Smith tells how a charity shop is contributing to funding Tewkesbury’s theatre, The Roses.

Ribbon cutting ceremony

When Big Ben struck on the eve of 2012 The Roses in Tewkesbury looked forward to a year of creativity, success and new ventures despite knowing that we were going to feel the pinch more than ever, as our local authority funding of £80,000 was due to all but cease. But hopefully, we had hit on an idea that would help bridge the void. By opening a charity shop on the high street, not only would we raise the profile of the theatre in the town centre by having an extra shop window to market our artistic programme, but we would engage with the local community even more than before. All this, as well as raising an all-important annual contribution of £20,000, was a new venture we could not hold back from. We cherish our ‘family-like’ relationship with our audiences, and when we announced the plans, like a family, they helped considerably towards spreading the word, joining the rota, finding stock for us to sell and making sure that we were all kitted out.

The local community quickly came on-side when news spread that an empty shop would soon be filled and independent retailers have become a real sounding board for advice: anything from practical tips through to ways in which we could work together. Six months later, our director Deborah Rees cut the red ribbon and The Roses’ Charity Shop was officially opened. The marketing is no small feat. The new shop front has attracted people’s interest and the volume of press that surrounded the launch was a great help. But sustaining the custom was going to be the challenge.

At the theatre we are hot on encouraging our ‘segmented’ audiences to try something new, so every piece of marketing that we produce also contains an advertisement for another section of the programme. Naturally, everything we produce at the moment promotes the charity shop, but as time goes by we will return to a variety of cross-programme promotions. The challenge is turning our non-attending customers into avid and loyal audiences. The theatre’s strong presence in the shop, the energy of the volunteers, the exit flyer strategy and the ‘join our mailing list’ promotions should help.

Going forwards, we aim to install a box office ticketing system in the shop and LCD screens so we can promote the programme through digital media. Now that daily business is under way, we are able to say that all is well: goods are being left, customers are purchasing and we are making progress towards hitting our target.

Beckie Smith is Marketing and Press Manager at The Roses. www.rosestheatre.org

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