Recently I was contacted by the team at the Mary’s Living & Giving Shop for Save the Children in Edinburgh to come to the shop and learn about what they do. I thought that the best way to do this would be to do a few volunteer shifts and share my experience there. This week’s post will be about the Visual Merchandising team.
First, a quick introduction to the shop. Located in Stockbridge the Living & Giving shop is one of a kind in Scotland. Based on a concept by Mary Portas (her off the telly with the ginger bob), these stores are designed to be community hubs. This shop is also part of Save the Children’s community stores which are entirely run by volunteers. Everything from the banking to the rotas are done by volunteers, including the visual merchandising.
The team meets once a week on a Thursday evening with weeks alternating between planning and changing the window display. Every display is planned with a clear theme in mind. I went along for a few meetings and helped to plan the back-to-basics Save the Children theme.
After a quick bit of brainstorming we set about making backgrounds to hang in the window to create coherence and make it stand out. One of the team had the idea to do kid’s drawing – perfect for the theme and resulted in a pretty fun hour drawing on the floor. They then drew up a planogram and shared it with the rest of the team via their Facebook group so we could get right into changing the window the following week.
I was given the task of making a dress for a mannequin using Save the Children bags and stickers and a little bit of red ribbon. I think I did OK!
Meanwhile, there’s nothing else for it, you gotta climb in that window and get sticking, hanging, cutting and adjusting…
…And more adjusting. And looking. And adjusting. Until it’s perfect.
In keeping with the brand, we went for a red and white theme and used the words “Donate”, “Volunteer” and “Care” to really drive the message home alongside collection buckets and children’s soft toys. A lot of the fine details such as the clothing and the toys purely depend on what is in the shop at the time but we managed to achieve our overall goal.
Sadly I don’t have a picture of the windows in the daytime but I think you can agree it’s fairly striking?
Overall, I was really impressed at the freedom that Save the Children gives it’s volunteers to do something like this. The window display is a real point of pride in the shop and the team work really hard to keep it looking good. Stockbridge has a lot of fab charity shops so they use the displays to stand out and draw people into the shop and they do this with aplomb. For only 2 hours a week I was able to contribute to this fantastic store and it gave me a real sense of pride to see what we put together.
As well as contributing to the charity using your time and skills, this is also a fantastic opportunity to gain experience if you are interested in retail, design, merchandising etc. Or even if you are just looking for a creative output or to meet new people. It doesn’t take a huge commitment and you might be surprised at what kind of stuff you might get to do by approaching your local charity shop. I definitely want to continue with the Visual Merchandising team. And 2 hours after work on a Thursday – I’m sure I can manage that!
I also spent some time with the shop floor team so next week I’ll be sharing my experience of this. Everything from serving customers to taking donations, it was certainly a varied job!
For more information about the invaluable work of Save the Children, visit their website here.