FINANCE NEWS: National Trust sees signs of income growth

JULIE PYBUS

An enterprising approach has increased the spend of National Trust visitors in the charity's shops and restaurants during 2001-02, although total trading figures suffered a £1 million blow due to the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The latest annual trading figures from National Trust Enterprises show a profit of £8.8 million for 2001-02. This compares with the previous year's profit of £10 million. The charity blames the fall in profits on last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak, which resulted in the closure of some properties and a collapse in the number of visitors to the countryside.

However, Andrew Hancox, finance and planning manager of National Trust Enterprises, said: "There have been several encouraging signs to offset the effects of the foot-and-mouth crisis on our business. Better sales in our shops and higher spends per head at our restaurants have helped us to overcome much of the shortfall."

Hancox credits products in the shops, better customer care and the opening of 15 holiday cottages with boosting the income.

Over the next few years, National Trust Enterprises will introduce new approaches to using the trust's assets such as opening restaurants in the evenings when the rest of the property is closed to visitors.

New holiday packages are being developed that put people in contact with a range of trust services and products. For example, National Trust Estates is looking at cycling and walking packages that will include visits to several properties, accommodation in trust cottages and dining at the charity's restaurants.

Such developments are part of a long-term strategy to move the business forward. "If we had stopped any of these initiatives because of foot and mouth, it would have been foolish,

he said.

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