My role at The Word is to run the Visitor Centre and Shop @ The Word. This service was previously known in the Borough as the Tourist Information Centre (TIC).
I started working in the TIC about 26 years ago and have seen many changes in that time! I’ve been based in South Shields Museum, the Amphitheatre (which is now a public toilet!), Haven Point and now, The Word. The new location inside The Word is by far the best and busiest of them all. The shop side has now become a huge part of my job, alongside still providing information for locals and visitors.
I was lucky enough to be involved quite early on in the process of moving to The Word so had the opportunity to help design the layout and furnishings for the Shop/Visitor Centre. There was a huge amount of planning involved including choosing stock and branded gifts, and, not forgetting, the logistical problem of moving a rather large glass cabinet from our old site to The Word!
It is safe to say that the weeks leading up to the opening were completely manic and there were times when we thought it would never be ready on time but the whole team worked like mad to get everything done.
We couldn’t believe the queues outside the building on the opening Saturday, it was amazing! We had over 1,700 people through the shop on the first weekend and over 4,700 over the first week. We also had lots of positive comments about the range of stock on offer.
Alongside our usual range of branded souvenirs and gifts, we now also sell work for 40 local artists, photographers and crafters in The Word. This is a part of my job that I particularly enjoy – meeting them and choosing stock to sell.
Over the past year we’ve had over 65,000 people in the Shop/Visitor Centre, served over 17,500 customers, answered over 2,500 telephone enquiries and taken over £150,000. I think we must be doing something right!