Last week I blogged about my experience with the Save the Children Visual Merchandise team. I also spent a few days with the shop-floor team as well so this post is all about my time there for anyone who is interested in what volunteering in a charity shop might entail.
The shop I was based in was their Mary’s Living and Giving Shop in Stockbridge – a unique shop in Scotland based on the idea of creating a community hub/shopping destination hybrid. This shop is also part of Save the Children‘s community store branches which are entirely run by volunteers – no paid managers. This allows volunteers to really take ownership of the store and of course allows Save the Children to funnel more of the money raised into their work. The Stockbridge store prides itself on selling quality materials (in the few days I was in I saw items from Mulberry, Tommy Hilfiger and Louboutin amongst others) and standing out in a crowded high street.
My shifts were four hours on Saturday afternoons. I learned that most volunteers, including the shift leaders, did four hours per week meaning that they could fit volunteering around their busy schedules. This is perfect for people who study, have day jobs or family to look after and worry that they can’t commit to a full day. Saturday afternoon (1:30pm – 5:30pm) suited me fine as I didn’t have to face another early morning – get enough of those Mon-Fri, and I also had my whole evening free.
The first day I was there turned out to be their busiest day for months so talk about trial by fire! Still, the shift leader took the time to tell me about how the shop works and train me on the till. I was busy keeping the shop floor tidy and chatting to customers. The till is very easy to learn and there is always another volunteer there to help you if you get stuck. All the customers were lovely too, and I was happy when I help one woman choose a Burberry coat. Alongside this, there are cleaning duties, changing the wall displays, replacing clothes or other items bought from display and taking in and sorting donations. The four hours flies by!
The shop floor has lots of individual touches such as the awesome Nessie chalk drawing to photos of all of the volunteers in the changing rooms. (They’re watching you, so don’t steal like!)
One of my favourite features is the clothes that are hung colour coded. Aesthetically, it’s very pleasing. Behind the scenes, I saw the processing of the donations that becomes the shop’s stock. Every item is examined for damage and, if it passes quality control, priced according to a set structure, hung, and steamed before being taking out to the shop floor. If the donor signed up for Gift Aid the label is also coded so that Save the Children can claim the tax back.
Above are two of my favourite items – pink glitter heels (sadly not in my size) and two of the funkiest ties I have seen in my life! I also bought two jumpers for David – a Penguin one and a Pringle one in perfect condition, but forgot to take a snap of them – sorry!
Again, I found the experience enjoyable and rewarding. They have a really nice team in the Stockbridge store, everyone works hard but there is a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere which contributes to it being a pleasant experience for both staff and customers. And now I know what kind of gems are hidden in the rails, it’ll definitely become a regular shopping haunt for me.
To find out more about Save the Children and the work that they do, please visit their website here.