Five mins with...Retail Manager Bob Kane

Retail Manager Bob Kane with candles made by F. MacCool & Co social enterprise

We caught up with Bob Kane to hear more about his role as Retail Manager - and even made him choose his favorite product in the shop!

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself…

A: I’m Bob Kane, born and bred on the North Coast and I now live in Armoy. I first joined the National Trust as a Retail Supervisor at the Giant’s Causeway in 2012 and moved into my current role as Retail Manager one year later.

Q: Tell us about your role and what it entails…

A: As Retail Manager at the Giant’s Causeway, I work very closely with all our suppliers and manage a team of 28 people. A huge part of my job is to build and maintain relationships between our team and our suppliers, offering our suppliers a solid support network. When I took over the role of Retail Manager, I was keen to continue the good work that Margaret Dunlop had already started with the local crafters. Maintaining this good relationship was of utmost importance, as we are very passionate about working with local suppliers and supporting smaller businesses across the North Coast and beyond.

As part of our supplier engagement, local crafters come in to meet our staff and tell the team about their products. This is a fantastic way for our team to not only understand the story and people behind each product, but to also learn first-hand how we’re supporting the local economy keeping approx 250 local people in jobs. In the last few years we have seen local crafters sales go up by around 70% with one crafter increasing sales from £5,000 a year to approx. £45,000.

Q: What are you most proud of / what do you love most about your job?

A: As well as helping the local economy, the conservation work that we contribute to from retail alone is also extremely important. The National Trust looks after 22 percent of the coastline in Northern Ireland and the retail items we sell in our shops, help us to carry out essential conservation work in the very special places we look after such as the Giant’s Causeway, White Park Bay and Portstewart Strand, to name just a few. Being from the North Coast originally, the conservation of our beautiful places is something I’m very passionate about so knowing that the work we do here benefits this is what I love about my job. 

Working with local crafters is a real passion of mine and I’m very proud that around 60% of the items we sell in the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre are made in Northern Ireland. It is wonderful to see so many visitors take home a great memory of their time at the Giant’s Causeway knowing that so many of our crafts are locally produced.

Q: What’s your favourite National Trust property here in NI?

A: I probably should say the Giant’s Causeway but it has to be Carrick-a-Rede. I love it! I just love the drive in and the stunning views from it once you get there. It’s close to my heart because I was born just below it and I have many fond memories of Carrick-a-Rede.

Q: Favourite National Trust memory?

A: Winning the ‘Best Visitor Attraction Gift Shop’ at the UK Greats Award in 2014. This was after my first year in the job. The following year our very own Mandy Elliot won ‘UK Gift Retail Employee of the Year’ out of all the souvenir retail shops across the UK which was another fantastic achievement and truly reflects the amazing work of our team here at the Giant’s Causeway and across the National Trust.

Q: Any big plans for the future?

A: My next big goal is to get more of the local crafters in to train the staff. This way the whole team can get to know the people behind the crafts and truly understand the importance of local products and how we’re supporting the local economy. We’ve a great team who are passionate about the work they do and work hard to support our local crafters so it’s my job to ensure this continues.

Q: What is your favourite craft in the Visitor Centre?

A: I love the F. MacCool & Co candles. It’s not just the product, it’s what it stands for. F. MacCool & Co is a social enterprise project which operates at the Pavestone Centre in Coleraine and takes much of the inspiration for the products from the Giant’s Causeway. The Centre provides vocational and recreational rehabilitation for people with mental or physical health conditions. I have a daughter with a disability so it’s very important to me to know that there are opportunities for her and strong support.

A set of three Causeway candles, made by Coleraine-based social enterprise F. MacCool & Co
Trio of hexagonal candles made by F. MacCool & Co
A set of three Causeway candles, made by Coleraine-based social enterprise F. MacCool & Co

Another favourite would be Mount Ida Pottery who have a beautiful range of Christmas crafts in store at the minute including hexagonal Christmas decorations – something I’ve been eyeing up for my own Christmas tree.

Just one of the unique Christmas decorations from the Mount Ida Pottery range, handmade by Trevor Woods in County Down
A hexagonal Christmas tree ornament handmade from pottery
Just one of the unique Christmas decorations from the Mount Ida Pottery range, handmade by Trevor Woods in County Down

The Made in Northern Ireland craft booklet is available free or charge in the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre and the Causeway Hotel. It profiles all the local crafters who make the items we stock. You can also download a copy here