Lockdown Learning – essential training for charity shop teams

***UPDATE – 10.6.20***

We have added a brand new session to our Lockdown Learning package. For no extra cost, you will be able to access our pre-recorded webinar: “Well being leads to well doing – Exploring ways for a safe and healthy way out of Lockdown for your team” Devised and run for The Consultancy by Restorative Practice expert, Sarah Baggaley, this session introduces a whole new way to approach your relationships at work (and at home) to help ensure the best outcome for everyone. Charities who have already bought the Lockdown Learning package will automatically receive access to the session, along with useful links for planning this crucial element of reopening for business. Anyone purchasing the package from now on will receive all five sessions – and all at no extra cost.


We were thrilled to have this wonderful feedback on our Lockdown Learning package:

Congratulations on producing a wonderful resource which will help me train and update the retail staff and prepare them to return. It will also help me to maintain a connection – and I do believe it will positively impact their mental health and well being.”

David Burrell – CEO, Primrose Hospice

Designed with furloughed charity shop teams in mind, but suitable for all the retail team, these four online sessions provide practical ideas and guidance around some of the key drivers to ensuring you are making the very most from your charity shops.

Each session is approximately one hour and is delivered in the form of slides with an accompanying narration. There are exercises for participants to do throughout each session and a takeaway “Ideas and Action” plan, which encourages staff to think about what they will do to improve their shop when they return to work.

Each session reminds teams to check in with their line managers before they make any changes, and we offer email or ‘phone support to anyone taking part in the courses.

The course content is as follows:

Recruiting and retaining great volunteers
• An overview of current charity retail volunteering, including up to date statistics and trends
• Assessing your volunteer need by carrying out a volunteer audit
• How to attract volunteers using tried and tested methods as well as new and innovative ones
• The benefits of volunteering
• Planning volunteer roles
• Rewarding volunteers
• Why and how to attract young people as volunteers

Stock acquisition and management
• Knowing the challenges of donated stock acquisition
• Understanding your stock generation needs
• Identifying the levels and types of stock needed and how to achieve the right stock levels
• Planning how to improve your stock generation activities
• Planning how to retain your stock donors

Customer service
• What good and bad customer service means for you
• What excellent customer service looks like
• The benefits of good customer service
• Current challenges
• How to increase customer numbers
• Instore experience – how to delight your customers
• Online presence – selling and engagement
• Building a community
• Collecting and using market research
• Going the extra mile

Making the most of your space
• Understanding the basic principles of space management
• Calculating % sales and % space
• Sales vs space – how to allocate your space to each department
• Filling your space – areas to consider
• Types of shop and styles of merchandising
• Using your shop fittings effectively
• Calculating potential sales

Costs include unlimited access for your charity staff and volunteers to the sessions & supporting documentation, plus follow up support via email or phone as required.
Charities with 0-5 shops* – £250 + VAT
Charities with 6-20 shops – £50 + VAT per shop
Charities with 21 shops or more – please contact us to discuss a price

*We are aware of some funders who may be able to help with costs for smaller charities and are happy to discuss this with you

How to access the leaning
If you would like to go ahead, please contact us at hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk
We will provide you with a link and password to access the sessions and supporting documentation. We ask that this is not shared beyond your organisation.

We look forward to hearing from you and continuing to support you and your teams through these uncertain times.

Ideas for engaging your teams whilst charity shops are closed due to COVID-19



This document has been prepared by Daniel O’Driscoll from Engagement Consultancy, and Vicki Burnett & Jayne Cartwright from the Charity Retail Consultancy with input from the Charity Retail Association Discussion Group on LinkedIn. We are also grateful for contributions from several charity retail leaders.

Together we have brought together ideas for you to help ensure your volunteer teams remain engaged through the shop closures – and what to think about when planning and implementing communication strategies.

If you are furloughing your staff, we recommend that you consult the Charity Retail Association (CRA) Coronavirus Guidance to ensure that anything you do complies with regulations surrounding this scheme before making any firm plans which involve your paid staff. If you are not already members of the CRA, you can join here.

Wellbeing & mental health

These are difficult times for everyone and it is highly likely some of your team will be worried, anxious or depressed. Some volunteers will already have their own mental health issues, and volunteering, with the structure and support it can bring, may have helped them to manage symptoms. With that opportunity no longer available, this can be a vulnerable time for people. It is important to take this into consideration when asking your staff to keep in touch with and support their volunteer teams. The points below provide suggestions as to what to consider and how to ensure your staff and volunteers are supported whilst the shops are closed.

Consider the impact for some of not being able to volunteer during this period. What can support for these people look like? More than ever, having provision for mental health and wellbeing to support shop teams will be at the forefront of helping volunteers and staff.

Think about how the team will manage the impact on vulnerable volunteers who might have poor mental health and/or dementia or who rely on the routine of coming to the shop regularly.

Where and how does your organisation draw the line to make sure staff are not feeling overly responsible for these volunteers – and how are they (the staff AND the volunteers) supported by the charity?

Having a clear and defined process for what to do if you are worried – either about yourself or someone else – will help staff and volunteers know where to turn. Ensure safeguarding is considered throughout this process.

If there are any vulnerable volunteers in your shops e.g. those who live alone or have health issues, your charity may be their only contact. If your staff are furloughed then it may be wise to ask them to share this information with you to ensure the volunteer doesn’t fall through the net. It is important, however, to be mindful of privacy and manage this within your organisation’s guidelines.

Be prepared for and open to information about volunteers and staff who may be struggling to come from different sources, e.g. from work friendship groups/peer groups.

Provide volunteers and those who are keeping in touch with them with a list of organisations who offer emotional and wellbeing support such as Mind or The Samaritans, so people have somewhere to turn or can signpost others (Links to some of these organisations are at the bottom of this document).

Investigate offering online Mental Health First Aid training to your teams who are supporting volunteers. (The Government have confirmed it is acceptable to offer training to furloughed staff).

Make wellbeing resources readily available to all volunteers via an easily and widely accessible intranet or your charity’s website.

Share ideas such as desk yoga, and mindful moments.

Take care of your own mental health and wellbeing – looking after yourself means you will be better equipped to look after your team.

Communication and engagement

The reason for keeping in touch with your volunteers is that you want to make sure that they are communicated to, that they can access support from your charity, but ultimately that you care for them and that you want to keep your volunteers engaged during this really uncertain period. When shops reopen, volunteers will be more important than ever so don’t take for granted that volunteers and supporters will just revert back to how it was before. Keeping them engaged will be key.

Having a communication plan

Are you able to coordinate and join up with internal teams on how you are communicating? Some of your shop volunteers will also be fundraisers in your charity, or campaigners or have other voluntary roles. If they are getting different comms from different departments, that isn’t joined up then that can have mixed messages. If one department is communicating well with their volunteers but shops aren’t getting the same level of support then how does that look?

Having a structured, joined up approach to communicating with volunteers and supporters will be essential. NCVO has a helpful resource which you can access

Visible leadership from senior staff

Your staff will be communicated to during this crisis, but there can be a disconnect with those messages getting through to your volunteers. Can your senior leaders, Heads of Retail, Trading Directors send out messages to your volunteers? One way this could happen is through video messages. Can your senior team send out a short video to volunteers telling them that they haven’t been forgotten, that you’re looking forward to seeing them again in person and if they want to get in contact sharing the ways in which they can do that.

How do volunteers want to be contacted during this period when shops are closed?

Can your Shop Managers make contact with your volunteers and ask how they would like to be contacted while shops are closed? If your Shop Managers are not able to make contact because they have been furloughed or are unwell, then what other resource internally do you have to make contact with volunteers?

Use your website

Using your website to create a dedicated page and a single source of information to communicate updates on COVID-19 in relation to your charity. Update that with what you are doing and what support you might need, how volunteers and supporters can keep in touch. You may decide to create a weekly / monthly email that volunteers and supporters can sign up to, so they can have information sent to them directly.

Phone contact

For on-going phone contact with volunteers, some charities have redeployed staff from other areas of the business e.g. street fundraisers, to contact volunteers directly to offer a friendly voice at the end of the phone. This could be especially important for any vulnerable volunteers or volunteers who are currently self-isolating.

Can you support your volunteers to start informal ring arounds between volunteers to offer support and a friendly voice at the end of the phone? Volunteers may already be in contact with each other, but having some coordination could help to make sure some volunteers don’t fall between the gaps.

Groups, forums and videos

Set up a volunteer email group to keep volunteers updated on what is happening in your charity. Direct your volunteers to the single source of information on your website.

Setting up an internal forum or extending an invitation for volunteers to join. You may already have an internal group on your intranet, or you might use Facebook workplace. But what existing groups do you have that volunteers could join and be part of? A local extension of this will be to have WhatsApp / Facebook groups that volunteers can join and connect with each other.

To keep that local connection and interaction with your volunteers, can your regional teams, Area Managers, Heads of Department record a short video message to send out to their volunteers? During shop closures, showing that you care and want to hear from volunteers will go a long way.

Have a regional, area conference / video call with your volunteers. Giving the option to dial into a weekly call where they can connect with staff, ask questions and get support. At the moment staff and teams will be having those calls with each other, so can this be extended to volunteers or create a specific call for them to join.

If you don’t have full contact details for all your volunteers, social media can be a big help – and reaching out to fellow shift members to ask those whose contact details aren’t available to get in touch. Using existing shop Facebook pages or setting up new ones can be a great way to keep in touch. Are you able to empower your teams to do this for themselves?

Online training

Refresher / online training for volunteers. With volunteers at home, this will be a good opportunity to do some refresher training with them or if you have the facility to send out some internal training to volunteers.

When shops re-open, if your volunteers have completed training or have upskilled in another section (books, high value items, online selling) then that will be a benefit for your shop. If individuals are eligible, Derby College runs free training courses for shop volunteers. Some of these have moved online now. You can get in touch with Lisa Ede who coordinates the courses. Lisa.Ede@derby-college.ac.uk

Keeping the team spirit alive

Can you arrange a virtual shop visit with your team or a shop meeting? Setting up a video call with your volunteers and Shop Manager to have a coffee and cake might be a really good way to keep connected and engaged. You also get to eat some cake!

Organise a team quiz or a coffee morning. Having that human connection during this will be vitally important and keeping that team spirit going will be essential. Volunteers can take the lead in organising this and setting up the meeting. Be mindful of volunteers who aren’t able to join virtually so consider other ways you can do this.

Are you able to celebrate any volunteer milestones (length of service) or your volunteer’s birthday? What would you do if the shop was open and how can you still celebrate and make that occasion virtual?

Don’t just focus on your favourite shops. It would be easy to call and get in touch with those shops that you have a close relationship with as it’s easy. Call and get in touch with those shops that you aren’t as close with and use it as an opportunity to get to know the team better.

Look at what other organisations are doing on their social media accounts. Use those good ideas for your charity. One such idea is showcasing your team or celebrating a birthday.

https://twitter.com/OxfamCastleSt/status/1243497698126372864 https://twitter.com/OxfamCastleSt/status/1243945728105426944

Encourage your shops to share their good news stories on their social accounts. Some of these might be older stories, or can you ask your volunteers to record themselves talking about their volunteering, why they joined and that they are looking forward to coming back.

You could do a short interview with your volunteers or a Q&A or get them to talk about what they did before volunteering in your shop. You can get really creative and put out some great content.

Teams could hold upcycling/crafting/poetry activities from home and encourage everyone to check in on each other’s progress (over the phone/via social networks etc). The physical crafting side will keep people busy and be a helpful distraction from current events – also it gives a positive topic to call about and ideas and patterns can be shared online. You could also use this as an opportunity for the team to create props for future window displays or items to sell in the shops when you reopen.


Further advice, help and information can be found via these links:

Mental Health & Wellbeing

The Samaritans
Mind – The mental health charity
The Retail Trust – CRA members have free access to their services
UK Government Guidance

To connect with sector colleagues

Charity Retail Association Discussion Group – via LinkedIn, with live discussion every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 1pm and 2pm
Charity Shop Visual Merchandising & Display – Facebook Group showing examples of great visual merchandising and general charity shop chat

Fun stuff

The Charity Retail Association has set up a page full of ideas for volunteers and staff to do at home during lockdown

Volunteering advice & information

NCVO – National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Volunteering England
Volunteer Scotland
Volunteering Wales
Volunteer Ireland

Free Virtual Meeting Apps

Zoom – Video conferencing
Google Hangouts – Video Conferencing from Google
WhatsApp – Text, phone and video groups
WhyPay – Telephone conferencing

About us & contact details

The Charity Retail Consultancy

Voted Supplier of the Year 2019 in the Charity Retail Awards, we provide a range of services to support charities and other not-for-profits to make the very most from their retail and trading operations.

Vicki Burnett –        07985 574904        vicki@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

Jayne Cartwright – 07598 243210        jayne@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

Engagement Consultancy

We specialise in strategic planning, audience engagement, learning and development, and interim resourcing services. Focusing on volunteering, staff and supporters in the not for profit sector Dan works with all organisations of any size.

Daniel O’Driscoll – 07515 395683       dan@engagementconsultancy.co.uk

Expert help in a time of crisis

***UPDATE – 24th March 2020***

Given the ongoing and ever changing nature of the current situation, our offers may be subject to change. We remain happy to provide free telephone support so do call us if you need us and we will update you on how we can help.

The Charity Retail Association has set up a discussion group on LinkedIn and is hosting live discussions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 1pm and 2pm. We encourage you to join the group and the discussions.

Stay safe.

Vicki & Jayne


At The Charity Retail Consultancy, we are devastated to see the impact of COVID-19 on society and specifically on our beloved charity retail sector. We have spent the last two days putting together a toolkit to support charity retailers and are happy to share it with you here.

We can offer up to 1 hour free telephone consultation with any charity who would like our input. We can’t promise to fix all your troubles but we are charity retail experts and willing to provide ideas and suggestions to help your particular situation.

We have also developed a number of paid for services. We understand the financial pressures that charities and individuals (including ourselves at The Consultancy) are all facing right now, so have endeavoured to keep costs as low as possible to make our services accessible to all.

We can offer:
1. Online training.
We have developed a range of half day courses for up to 6 people, covering a range of topics. The courses mean your teams can spend their time away from the shops constructively, growing their skills ready for reopening when things settle. Currently these are:
• Online sales
• Volunteer recruitment planning
• Making the most of your sales area and building a stock generation plan
• Backroom organisation: making your “engine room” as effective as possible
• Implementing and maximising Gift Aid on donated sales
• Customer service training

2. Help setting up an online selling platform
Whilst your shops are closed, selling online is the obvious way to turn. If you need support and assistance setting up an ebay shop, putting processes in place, understanding what drives sales and creating then recruiting to volunteer roles, we can help. We have a one day session and can provide a how-to guide and templates to get you up and running as quickly as possible.

3. Retail Mentoring
A bespoke 6 x 1 hour package of mentoring for your senior team to help guide them through these turbulent times and plan for the future. This provides expert input and frees up CEOs or Directors of Income to focus on other pressing issues, knowing their Head of Retail is on track and supported.

4. Volunteer and Customer engagement
Help and guidance on how to keep your supporters – be that volunteers, customers, donors or your local community – on board and informed whilst you are closed or have limited opening hours. Beginning with a 2 hour telephone session, we will help guide and support you through this vital piece of work to ensure you have everyone on board when business is back to normal.

5. Building your social media platforms and profile
Now more than ever, social media is vital to keep your profile high and your friends on board. We can provide advice and support in establishing a shop by shop or all-charity presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

6. Online interactive support
For a deeper dive into your shops, be that improving sales floor layouts or revising back room layouts and processes, we can offer video calls on site to talk you through what will help to make the most positive impact when your shops are back in full business.

7. Retail strategy development
In order to have the right direction of travel ready to go when the crisis is over, we can support and guide you through developing a new retail strategy. Working within the strategic objectives of your organisation we will help you ensure that your retail offer brings exactly what you need, when you need it.

8. Retail feasibility studies
If you don’t already have shops but need to consider a retail presence to shore up future income, we can help. We are experts at conducting feasibility studies, finding the right shop locations and offer for your charity.

There is no doubt that we all have some challenging times ahead. We are 100% committed to standing alongside and supporting the sector where we have spent our working lives however we can. If we can help or support you with any of the items we have listed above, or anything else you think you may need, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Follow us on social media as we will be keeping up to date with developments and changes as they happen, sharing best practice, good ideas and words of comfort.

Join the Charity Retail Association if you aren’t already members – now more than ever we need a strong sector body – and they need all of us to be able to carry on working on our behalf.

Stay safe, stay well – and remember we are #StrongerTogether

Get in touch:

Email: hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk
Phone: Jayne on 07598243210 or Vicki on 07985574904


Upcycling is the new black

We’re all becoming increasingly aware of the impact of fast fashion on the environment, and how reuse is becoming the ‘new normal’ – meaning charity shops are finally being seen as the high street heroes we’ve long known them to be.

For the last 80+ years, charity shops have been quiet eco warriors, encouraging reuse and recycling not just of textiles, but also homewares, toys, books, music, furniture and pretty much anything else you can think of. According to the Charity Retail Association, in 2018/19 alone, charity shops diverted 339,000 tonnes of waste from landfill – a remarkable achievement.

So, with the increased awareness and desire to behave in a kinder way to our planet, how are charities responding and readying themselves for this new wave of supporters? Upcycling and remodelling is becoming increasingly popular and charity shops are a great place to start.

Some charities have been thinking creatively for many years. Back in the early 1990s, Oxfam set up a sub brand called NoLoGo which remodelled clothing and fabrics, creating high end, unique pieces which were snapped up in London and Leeds where the branches were based. This article about the founder Janette Swift, published in The Independent in 1991 could have been written yesterday, it resonates so strongly with today’s zeitgeist.

Karen Dennis, a trained pattern cutter and early champion of upcycled clothing worked with Janette in London and then with our own Vicki Burnett to set up a workshop and specialist department in a Leeds city centre Oxfam store which ran successfully for several years. The pictures below – kindly supplied by Karen – show a range of the items produced by NoLoGo the time – including a copy of the famous Liz Hurley dress made at the request of the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Skip forward a decade or so and we see more of this kind of work. Once again, Karen and Vicki collaborated – this time on an upcycling project called Martin House Makers for Martin House Children’s Hospice, encouraging anyone with an interest in crafts and sewing to upcycle and remodel items for resale. The project produced a wide range of upcycled goods, including Christmas decorations made from donated buttons and beads, bags and bunting made from fabric scraps, knitted outfits for Barbie dolls – and upcycled high end fashion as shown in the picture below.

Pic: By Leanne Clarke – upcycled clothing made by Martin House Makers & modelled by volunteers

These days, we are seeing lots of this type of project running in charity shops and beyond. Sue Ryder, for example, has a ‘Remade’ section in some of its shops (Headingley shop pictured) and Charity Shop Chic is just one of many blogs showing how to upcycle pretty much any item of charity shop clothing.


There are lots of ways to tune into and benefit from this wave of interest. Running workshops in shops (in or out of hours), having resident volunteer fixers and sewers based in the shop or from home, running events, writing blogs or making “how to” videos on transforming your charity shop purchase into a unique item are just some of the ways to engage the modern eco-conscious customer.

With years of experience in this field, the Charity Retail Consultancy can help, advise and support you in developing an upcycling offer that suits your shops and your team. From defining the right offer for you, developing volunteer role profiles, building a business case to invest in staff and resources, setting up a workshop space, building marketing programmes and running training courses, we’ve got it covered.

For a small investment, we can provide you with all the guidance, materials and training you need to help establish a long term engagement and income generating project within your shops.

So – what are you waiting for? Get ready to ride the upcycling wave and see your profits and profile soar.

Get in touch:

Email us at: hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

Call Vicki on: 07985 574904


Featured pic at top of post by Leanne Clarke. Holly is wearing upcycled clothing from Martin House Makers

Charity retail learning & development – what you told us

The Charity Consultancy recently ran an online poll to find out more about training, learning and development opportunities within charity shops.

We know from research carried out in 2019 by Charity Finance that 9% of charities (from their sample of 71) spend less than £20 per staff member per year on training. Although things are improving and spend increased by 10.7% in 2019, this is still a tiny amount of money and a sorry state of affairs.

Retail staff are such key members of any charity’s team. Often they will be the first point of contact for potential service users or supporters, so it’s vital that they are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to represent their charity, as well as being successful retail fundraisers. Our experience is that lots of shop staff learn on the job – they might bring skills from previous roles, often from commercial retail – but frequently they are ‘feeling their way’ through a complex and important role, which involves people and management skills, stock control, merchandising, finance, problem solving, conflict resolution and so much more.

Investing in these people is therefore vital.

We asked charities a short series of questions to find out more, and this is what you said:

Have you trained your retail team in any of these key areas in the last 2 years?
89% said they had trained staff in Gift Aid and in volunteer recruitment and retention.
65% had provided customer service and merchandising training
Only 40% had provided people management training and even fewer had worked with their teams on areas such as social media, stock acquisition and succession planning

What are your team’s top training needs for 2020?
Despite it being one of the most popular topics already covered, charities told us they still need to focus on volunteer recruitment and retention. This is no surprise as the Charity Shops Survey 2019 listed shortage of volunteers as one of the top areas of concern for charity leaders.
Managing people was also a big focus for this year – which ties in with making sure you look after the people you already have, as well as finding new ones.

How much did you spend last year training each of your staff team?
In line with what we had already seen, over 50% of the charities who responded spent less than £25 per head on training their team last year. The positive story though, is that 20% spent over £150 per head, showing that some charities really do understand the value of a well-trained team.

In the past how have you accessed training for your retail team?
Over 75% of respondents have provided in-house training in the past – we think this reflects the high amount of mandatory and health and safety training carried out by many hospices and other charities. It’s fantastic when you have people in your team who can share their skills and experiences with others, but sometimes it’s good to look outside too, to make sure you’re getting a fresh perspective and tapping into new developments and ideas.

When we asked how people would like to offer training in the future, there was a fairly even split between bespoke courses, attending external courses and 1-1 mentoring.

Who do you want to offer training to?
Over 50% were focussed on training for shop floor staff – managers and assistants, followed by 20% for Area Managers. This reiterates our point at the start of this blog – that those on the shop floor are often charities’ best asset, so it’s vital that to value and invest in them.

So….what next?
It’s been fascinating to get a better picture of what’s happening and what people want in terms of learning and development. At the Charity Retail Consultancy, we listen to our clients’ feedback and always have an eye out to see what the latest trends, developments and needs are across the sector. The information we’ve gathered has given us a great foundation and we will be offering training over the next 12 months in a number of ways.

We will be running a series of training courses across the country this year. These will include:

Volunteer Recruitment – how to properly identify the gaps in your team and know the best ways to fill them. We’ll be focussing on making the most of the rise of the environmental activist – and how your shops can be their place of choice to help save the planet. This course is a new twist on a long standing topic and not to be missed!

Space Management & Merchandising – a brilliant way to help shop teams understand how to make the best use of their available space and where to focus their attention to get the best possible return.

Stock acquisition – as securing good quality stock becomes even more of a challenge, this session helps everyone be responsible for attracting the right goods to sell.

Customer Service – a long standing topic but in these challenging times for the high street, giving your customers the best possible experience in your shops is vital. Learn how to make your shop experience one that your customers love – and keep them coming back time after time.

Places are £100 per delegate for a full day.

Contact vicki@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk for more information, and look out for our newsletters & social media for details.

We will also continue to develop and run bespoke training courses for whole teams, delivered at your choice of location and for up to 20 people at a time. Contact either Jayne or Vicki if you’re interested in a great value way to build your team’s skills.

We already offer mentoring and 1-1 coaching for senior staff and there are great deals to be had if you book several sessions in advance.

Training is always on our agenda and we are happy to discuss your requirements with you, so your team gets exactly what they need to be the very best they can be. Do get in touch if you have any questions or want to know more – and keep your eye out on our social media platforms and website for new sessions and information.

Twitter – @charityretailco
Facebook – @thecharityretailconsultancy
LinkedIn – @thecharityretailconsultancy
Web – www.thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk
email – hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk
Tel – 07985 574904 / 07598 243210

Top Tips to help you share the Zero Waste message

Charity shops are a retailing force for good. They create new income for charities, they’re all about affordability and unique purchases, they create great volunteering opportunities, bring a buzz to the High Street and are great for the planet. Really great.
Without charity shops, so many clothes, furniture, bric a brac and books would end up in landfill. According to the Charity Retail Association, 339,000 tonnes of textiles were sent on for reuse and recycling by charity shops in 2018/2019. And according to a recent Government report, we buy more clothes per person in the UK than any other country in Europe. [1] Incredibly, we now buy five times what we bought in the 1980s, according to some estimates. It is shocking that UK citizens discard around a million tonnes of textiles per year. Our fast fashion habits need to change, and your charity shops have an important role in saving the planet.
So what can you do?
Act now! Fashion and supermarket retailers are successfully shouting their green messages, and we must do the same. Pre-loved purchases are a guilt-free and affordable choice. So here are three ways to share the green love:

1. Make some noise!
Plan some eye catching enviro windows, use your social media presence to engage with more customers, and print some posters that communicate facts like those above and these two:
– New clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the circumference of the Earth six times. [2]
– Buying one new white 100 per cent cotton shirt weighing approximately 220g produces the same amount of carbon emissions as driving a car for 35 miles.  So conversely, buying one preloved white shirt is the equivalent to saving the carbon emissions from a 35 mile car journey

2. Refresh your objectives and strategy!
Take a look at your existing plans and find opportunities to incorporate sustainability concepts that complement your strategies. At the same time, ask yourselves if there are new environmental and social strategies you can create that will be unique to your charity and that will add value to your messaging and to your retail business.

3. Get involved with like-minded organisations!
Get involved with groups who can help share your messages with theirs to help build your presence in the wider community. You could contact Greenpeace, WRAP or Fashion Revolution, a not-for-profit movement with teams in over 100 countries who campaign for a reform of the fashion industry, focusing on the need for greater transparency in the supply chain. They call themselves “pro-fashion protesters” because they love fashion and want to see it become a force for good. This Fashion Revolution Week, from the 20th to the 26th of April 2020, they’re joining forces with Global Fashion Exchange (GFX) to make the largest fashion swap in history.


[1] European Clothing Action Plan, Used Textile Collection in European Cities (March 2018)

[2] WRAP’s 2016 report “Valuing Our Clothes: The Cost of UK Fashion”

Making the most of Christmas trading

Christmas is a vital time of year for charities – it’s the time when many people are feeling generous and want to give, so having a variety of opportunities for your supporters is vital.

Christmas cards is one area where charities can really have an impact. The charity Christmas card market is huge – even in these digital times – and having a great selection of cards with a good profit margin is a brilliant way to raise money and get your name out to all your supporters’ friends and families.

In order to help charities make the very most of their Christmas card offer, we are delighted to be holding a free event providing advice and support on all aspects of Christmas trading.

Whether you have an already established Christmas card operation or have never tried them before, our event will have something for you. We will run a workshop on all elements of a successful Christmas card campaign – including choosing a range, setting prices, selling via shops, catalogues and online – and much more besides.

There will be a free lunch provided by an amazing local caterer, CatchaCarrot and in the afternoon you can browse the new card range from the main supplier to the charity sector, Elle Media and speak to their representative who will be attending the whole day. Elle are also kindly sponsoring the event, ensuring it is free to everyone who wishes to attend.

The Consultancy will also be offering free 1-1 sessions with Vicki to talk about any aspect of your retail or trading activities. There will also of course, be lots of opportunity to network with your fellow charity workers.

All in all, we think it’s going to be a great event and we’d love to see you there.

Date:               11th February 2020

Time:               11am – 3pm

Location:         The Rockfield Centre, Oban

To register for free, email vicki@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

The 2019 Charity Shops Survey – what does it tell us?

Once again, our open and collaborative sector has come together to help produce a really useful benchmarking tool. The 28th Charity Shops Survey is a vital piece of kit for any charity retailer, mapping the highs and lows of the year just gone and gathering thoughts and concerns for the future. 71 charities representing almost 6,500 shops completed the 2019 survey, published by Charity Finance.

At the Charity Retail Consultancy we use the survey a great deal, so thought we’d share our thoughts on what the latest edition can teach us:

Profits are up

Firstly – good news! Once again our sector sees profits up on last year. With an increase of 5.9% on 2018, growth has accelerated and is certainly a huge turnaround from 2016 when we saw an almost 12% fall in profits. We think that those poor figures a few years ago really made people sit up and think – and make radical changes to turn things around. The move to specialist shops, larger stores, selling online, cutting costs and driving income generators such as Gift Aid have all helped, despite some of the ever present challenges around stock and volunteer numbers.

Where charities are taking a more innovative approach there have been some fantastic results. For example, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland have a Community Hub, Boutique & Clearance model making sure their shops really reflect the needs of their local communities. They are one of the few charities growing their chain, increasing by 5 stores last year and were rewarded by a 31.4% growth in profit.

Lots of the highest profit growth was seen in hospice chains. We work with many hospices and see how they can increase engagement and support by telling their powerful and moving local stories through their shops. Always popular with donors and customers, making that extra effort to really show how the hospice helps the local community can bring supporters even closer to the cause and generate extra income via increased donations and volunteer numbers.

Pic: Martin House Children’s Hospice shop, Yeadon – showing messages and images from the hospice to tell their story on the high street

Shop numbers are down

For the second year in a row, shop numbers have fallen. We don’t see this as a negative thing – more the sector getting its house in order, really looking at how much each store contributes and closing those which don’t cut the mustard. Have you got shops in your chain which don’t make a profit or are marginal in their contribution? Sometimes it can be hard to walk away, but it’s important to ensure the charity is investing its money wisely. Our retail reviews help to identify the true profitability of each shop in the chain and if there is potential to do better – sometimes repositioning a store’s offer, improving processes or upskilling the team can make all the difference. However, if you’ve tried all that and the shop still can’t turn a profit, it could be time to make some tough decisions and invest the money elsewhere.

The other influencing factors on shops numbers declining are the rise of the superstore – opening fewer, large format stores – and a cautious approach to expansion whilst charities ensure their base offer is working as well as it can be.

Despite the 2 year decline, however, retailers are still optimistic about the future and 87% of charities operating between 26 and 100 shops said they planned to open new shops next year.

Recruiting volunteers is still hard work

Volunteers are the backbone of our sector – their gift of time, skills, enthusiasm and hard work keeps the wheels of over 11,000 charity shops turning each year. However, the number of volunteer hours per shop per week has fallen again after a brief peak last year.

Almost everyone is in the same boat – everyone wants and needs more volunteers and many of you are effectively competing for the same people’s time. So what to do? The most successful charity retailers know that in order to attract volunteers the whole organisation must genuinely embrace and celebrate everything they bring. We’ve blogged about volunteers and how best to recruit and retain them – and as volunteers ourselves, we have first-hand knowledge of what a ‘good’ volunteering experience looks like. The Consultancy can help you with volunteer recruitment, training, retention and reward – get in touch if you want to find out more.

Superstores are really profitable

For the first time this year, the survey looked specifically at results from those charities running large format superstores. Sue Ryder is the biggest player in this field at the moment, with 50 of these stores, primarily based on retail parks and trading from warehouse style units. The survey showed that profits from this type of store are nearly three times more than a ‘traditional’ shop at £1,604 per shop per week, despite higher staffing and running costs.

We have been working with several charities recently who are all looking at developing an out of town or superstore offer – there are some great examples out there to learn from, not least the brand new Oxfam superstore which has attracted national media coverage and was listed as one of the best new retail concept stores in the world by Insider trends.

Pic: Oxfam Superstore, Oxford

If you are considering expanding into this new type of retail offer and want some help and support with the process, the Charity Retail Consultancy can help you.

And finally….

Overall, the sector is in good shape. We have once again bucked the mainstream retail trend of declining sales from bricks and mortar and continue to bring a vibrant, profitable, cause related offer to high streets all over the country. The survey results tell a great story and look forward with confidence to next year.

If your charity has contributed to the survey this year – thank you. And if not, make sure you do next year. Deadline for completion is usually around July so make sure you’re on the list to receive the form – every charity that takes part receives a free copy of the results and the more that take part, the more comprehensive and valuable the data becomes.


For reviews, staff & volunteer training, feasibility studies and much more, contact us to see how The Charity Retail Consultancy can help improve your retail operation:

Email:              hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

FB:                  The Charity Retail Consultancy

Twitter:            @charityretailco

Web:                www.thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk



2020 Vision – our 5 tips for successful budgeting

We know that this is such a busy time of year – Christmas is just around the corner, and many of you are facing key decisions in planning and budgeting for the next financial year. But you’re not alone – the Charity Retail Consultancy is your budgeting friend and we’ve developed 5 top tips to help with this crucial task.

Tip 1: Understand what a budget really is
It’s not about managing all costs to the last penny; a budget is a thoughtful plan that helps you stick to your strategy and spot and deal with areas for improvement by making better spending decisions.
Go into budgeting with a positive mindset; it never works well if you see it as a hurdle, so start the process with knowledge, hope, confidence and see your budget plans for what they are – a helpful business tool.

Tip 2: Be realistic
If you set budgets which others in your team and the wider charity see as unattainable, then that’s the likely outcome. So unless there are any major changes planned, develop your budget based on past results and future projections.
Start by recognising which costs are fixed and inevitable. Then look at lines that have fluctuated over the years (we suggest looking back over 5 years) and identify what caused this fluctuation. Was it one-offs, could costs have been better controlled or can high income lines be repeated?
Use your charity’s past information to develop a more concrete basis for establishing budget numbers. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ambitious – the unrestricted income from a charity retail operation is vital to every charity, so aspire to be the best you can be, but ensure those predictions are based on strong foundations.

Tip 3: Be thorough

The more detailed your planning is, the more effective your budget will be. So plan when you will do your budgeting, give yourself plenty of time and ideally, lock yourself away and tell people not to disturb you apart from emergencies.
And remember you’re not alone – talk to colleagues in your team and in the wider charity. The Finance and IT teams for example might have knowledge and tips to help you, and your own team have more detailed knowledge than you in some areas – for example, you might not know that a shop manager is planning on retiring, but with that knowledge you can plan its impact on costs (such as recruitment and training) and income.

Tip 4: Share it
The retail budget shouldn’t be a secret. At The Charity Retail Consultancy we are big advocates of transparency and accountability, and we know there is a real difference in the success of those charities that share budgets and other important information with their teams and those that don’t. It’s not always easy or comfortable but a shared budget ultimately leads to greater trust, engagement, increased feedback and beneficial communication. The more you can empower and engage your employees, the better off your retail operation will be.

Tip 5: Talk to us!
The Charity Retail Consultancy helps charities deliver better budgets that are ambitious and achievable. We start with a conversation about where you want to go and what you want to achieve with the resources you have available, and then we offer guidance on the best ways forward.  For example, your strategy might include having 3 volunteers per shift in every shop, so we can work with you to look at what that means in terms of numbers, develop a series of recruitment events, and run a bespoke training course for all staff. Many charities spend less than £20 per year on training each of their retail staff, leading to a loss of motivation and of skills to get the most from their shop and local team.
At The Charity Retail Consultancy we are an award winning, hugely experienced and passionate team who take pride in delivering bespoke and highly rated retail training, development and mentoring to charities across the UK.

#IHeartCharityShops Campaign


We launched our #IHeartCharityShops campaign at the recent Charity Retail Association conference. Everyone we spoke to loved the idea and it was fantastic to see our badges popping up on delegates, speakers, suppliers and the CRA team over the 2 days.

Lots of people also told us why they love charity shops in our competition and we were overwhelmed by the responses. We’ve shared some of our favourites on Twitter so take a look at our feed   and see if yours is there.

It was interesting to see several themes emerging from the replies – and we thought sharing these would give charity retailers some great things to talk about with teams and supporters.

  1. Environment

#IHeartCharityShops because ….we are saving the world one T shirt at a time!

–       Lauren Gardner, Royal Trinity Hospice

Although charity shops have been doing great things for the environment for the last 100 years, we’ve not really shouted about it too much until now. The more urgent messages around climate change and the ‘Blue Planet effect’ have brought care for our environment to the fore recently and we are in a fantastic position to remind people of how brilliant charity shops are for the planet. The Charity Retail Association has produced a great quick reference guide to help us all tell the story: https://www.charityretail.org.uk/charity-shops-the-environment/ – why not download it and share it with all of your shops so your teams are briefed and ready to talk to their customers and donors about the difference they are making.

2. Volunteers

#IHeartCharityShops because ….they are the ultimate gift shops, full of kind gifts of time, talent and stuff!

– Lily Caswell, Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity

The charity retail sector now has 230,000 volunteers working in its shops – an absolute wealth of talent, skills, experience and diversity. Recognising the value and skills of our volunteers is vital – as is acknowledging their contribution and saying thank you. We love to promote and champion volunteers and volunteering at the Consultancy and have written several blogs on the subject. You can read them here: https://www.thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk/blog/

3. Value for Money

#IHeartCharityShops because ….I would only be walking around in my underwear!!!

–       Linda Ewen, Highland Hospice

We loved this comment from Linda – and it really does tell the story of how you can get great bargains charity shops. We all know the buzz of how it feels to bag a bargain – and our customers love it as much as we do. With financial pressures and uncertainty around Brexit, the UK public are thinking hard about how and where they spend their money – so letting them know what great deals they can get from your shops is a no brainer.

4. Shop Quirky

#IHeartCharityShops because….I can be an individual and not see myself walking down the street!

–       Louise Broadstock, ValleyCIDS

We’ve all seen the change over recent years in how charity shops present themselves – we now embrace our differences, show how quirky and different we are – and our customers love it! We think that the sector started to realise we could do things differently after Jayne (then Head of Retail for Save the Children) worked with Mary Portas to develop the Mary’s Living & Giving brand. Since then, so much has changed and we’ve seen from the WOW! Awards how inventive and creative our sector really is. Combine this with a generation of people who all want to express their individuality and we can see a match made in heaven. Using social media platforms – especially Instagram – to show off your best pieces and help people see how charity shop shopping really does help to create a unique look – is a great idea. There is also an excellent Facebook group called Charity Retail Visual Merchandising and Display where shop teams share pictures of their windows and interiors, providing a wealth of ideas and inspiration. At the Consultancy we offer training and support around how to use social media to your advantage within your chains, so do get in touch if you want to know more.

5. Community

#IHeartCharityShops because….communities need craziness, creativity, mixed cultures and caring people to spread the love!

– Samuel Cousins, Shelter

Samuel cleverly captures the importance of charity shops within their communities with his phrase. Being at the heart of our communities is vital for the sector – the relationship is a mutually beneficial one, giving and receiving on both sides. We provide opportunities for volunteering, employment, social interaction, great value goods, a buoyant high street – and as we heard in the conference sessions from Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland – increasingly we are offering our charity’s services directly from our shops. In return, we receive goods, time, skills, energy, custom, publicity and a whole heap of love from those around us. Making your shops truly part of the community is great for everyone.


All in all, there were loads of brilliant reasons for people to say #IHeartCharityShops. Why not ask your customers, donors, staff and volunteers why they Heart them too and share their stories in your shop windows and on social media? Let’s keep it trending and let everyone know just how wonderful charity shops are.

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