Tracy Thomas and The Great Little Trading Company

Tracy Thomas

How many hours do we spend trawling the shops for essential equipment, storage solutions or fun-filled toys and games for children? 

Out on the chilly High Street or in the over-heated shopping centre, there we all are, desperately hauling wailing toddlers or fuming pre-teens around yet another store. And much of what’s out there is either garish or uninspiring, unless money is no object.

So let’s thank an expert testing team for putting the Great into award-winning online children’s retailer Great Little Trading Company. 

Step up children and take a bow because this testing team consists of the real consumers, the kids. 

“Yes,” laughs Tracy Thomas, Head of Buying and Merchandise, whose eight-year-old son Dion and three-year-old daughter Bryony are avid testers, “kids are more honest than adults. They tell it like it is. Dion will happily say, ‘No Mum this is boring’.  And when it passes the test I know because he begs ‘Can we keep it?’”

The business was started some 16 years ago by two American women living in England and taken over eight years ago by father of three Jamie Reeve. The website tells you, “We're mums and dads ourselves. We know there’s nothing simple about being a parent, so our job is to source as many innovative, useful, exclusive and hard-to-find products from the UK and further afield, that cover all aspects of family life.”

According to Tracy, products must pass the children test but also “prove their worth” on three counts, they must be fun, stylish and make life more comfortable. This is not a company that wants to reside in tacky town, where long suffering parents live amongst hideous kiddy stuff until, hopefully, their offspring grow out of it.

We are always looking to tick the boxes on practical, stylish and fun,” says Tracy.  “What we sell is hard to find.  We seem to be filling a gap in the market that nobody else is covering. This is probably because we are doing it with our parents’ heads on.”

A lot of the range, like bean bags and chairs, come from the UK, much of the furniture from Portugal, textiles from India and the storage from China.

“While we all have our opinions in the company, our individual tastes and preferences,” says Tracy, “we also have to look at what is going to have widespread appeal. Our whole reason for being is essentially to make life easier for families.

A trip around the site reveals so many must-haves. Whether it’s a wigwam or a roll up piano, a telescope or a snooker table, a toy hospital or fire station, the toys are great.  Maybe you want UV swimwear or sunhats, or a three-wheel scooter.

But for my money it’s the neat solutions to all the mess that comes with kids.  I love the hallway storage bench, which might, just might, persuade them not to leave their shoes kicked off inside the door.  Then there’s the fabulous under bed play table and drawers, imagine just hiding it all away under the bed.  But my number one favourite, after shuffling through all those books for an age in a forlorn hunt for ‘Can’t You Sleep Little Bear?’ when no other would do – is the gallery book shelf, where I can see the front covers and stack paperbacks of varying sizes.

Whatever the problem, the Great Little Trading Company seems to have an answer and an innovative one that won’t look out of place in your home. 

Then they have given thought to the elements of online buying that really are a pain. There is express deliver should you need it, free returns for everything and a standard delivery charge of £3.95 on all orders, no matter what you spend.

Frequently secured awards such as the Best Children’s Retailer at the UK’s Mail Order Industry Awards are, says Tracy, “very important.  They give us credibility and that’s great because we constantly need to find new customers, who are coming to us for the first time.”

That’s a given when your consumers arrive as babies and move out of your range around ten years old.

So the Great little Trading Company had better get all the testing time they can out of the Thomas children, along with Grace, Amber, Tom, Eliza, Sally and Evie before they get to the age where they say, “No way, Mum, find someone else to test the folding bed and the lunchbox!”

Patricia McLoughlin 

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