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Professional Approach Is Vital To Charity Shop Success

We are proud of the 12 shops it has throughout the Kent and Bexley area – and their staff and volunteers are equally proud of their professional approach and their bumper sales.

Staff like Michelle Harris, assistant manager at the Bexley shop, know how much the hospice charity relies on revenue from its shops to support patients with life limiting illnesses and their families. She started working at the Bexley shop in February. Her role is part-time, usually two days a week but sometimes three. A background working in charity shops has certainly stood her in good stead.

She says: “I have managed charity shops for seven years and was already in retail for many years before that. I like to work for good causes. It’s not just about going to work; it’s about giving something back. After I moved to Swanley to be near my grandchildren I saw the ellenor shop job advertised I thought it would work very well -- and I love it there. I find the job really rewarding and I’m happy in what I am doing.”

The charity’s shops could not open without the stalwart support of a whole army of volunteers.

Michelle said: “The volunteers at Bexley are fabulous. Many of them have been coming in to help for 10 years or more, so they know the role really well – and they know the local community. They have some brilliant ideas.”

Michelle herself has also brought some fresh ideas to the shop and especially likes to concentrate on presentation; the window display and how things are displayed inside the shop.

She says: “How you set out your shop is very important and has a massive impact on footfall and sales. Your shop sells from your window. If the window is appealing, customers will be encouraged to come inside.”

Experience has taught Michelle to sometimes buck the trend. Traditionally wedding dresses had not sold well in the Bexley shop, but she decided to give it another go by displaying a bridal gown in the window and it sold within the week.

“I said let’s put it in the window and give it a week – and it sold for £100! Someone went home with that dress absolutely over the moon. When people donate something that is close to their hearts it’s especially important to make sure we turn it into good revenue for ellenor.

“It’s always good to try and involve your customers and that is why the donations we receive here are of a very high standard. ellenor relies on donations like these. Sometimes we might be low on ladies clothing, let’s say, so we mention it to our customers, and they have a sort through at home and bring in things they no longer wear.

“We have a lot of regular customers. Because Bexley is a village, they all know the shop and they all know about ellenor. Ours is the only charity shop so it is unique. Other shop owners come in here to buy things, the florist for instance. The dry cleaners two doors along also cleans things for the shop free of charge. It’s all about keeping good relations and building a bit of a network. For instance, there are teas served in the village hall on a Friday and I have asked the vicar if we can put up a notice asking for more shop volunteers.

“Bexley is a really nice little place with lots of potential and sales are increasing. The good thing is that we do furniture here as well. People are very keen to recycle and reuse these days. They know if they buy something preloved, they are recycling and saving waste, but they are also giving money to a good cause. We sell a lot to students, especially things like pots and pans and cutlery. We are seeing the younger generation coming in now, which is good. But all sorts of people are having to tighten their belts. Some people get the impression that there is more money here in Bexley, but our customers have rent or mortgages and other bills to pay and children to support, so they are looking for bargains.”

Michelle believes it’s important to keep stock affordable to achieve healthy sales.

She says: “There’s the mindset that Bexley residents can afford it, but we have to be careful not to price ourselves out of the market. We do have brands like Hobbs and Phase Eight, but pricing needs to be realistic.”

Michelle stresses the importance of Gift Aid. If customers sign up to it, the charity will receive an extra 25p in the pound for every item they sell. The shop is also keen to hear from people who might like to volunteer a few hours of their time each week.

Michelle says: “The type of people who volunteer vary greatly. Some give us a few hours after they have dropped their children at school. It’s nice for them to come in and chat to other volunteers and customers and help raise money for such a good cause locally. Another volunteer who joined recently is a retired nurse. For all our volunteers, working here is a chance to be doing something different.

“We have about eight volunteers from all walks of life, and they are fabulous, but you can never have enough. We are especially looking for the younger generation to get involved; it’s a great way to get some work experience and build confidence. If they want to help in the school holidays that is great for us – it’s good cover for other volunteers who might be on holiday. If you are interested just come in and see us.”

You can bring your preloved items to any of the ellenor shops at any time.

There are some items that cannot be sold for safety reasons, please see the list of prohibited items.

The charity can also collect your unwanted furniture if it’s in a saleable collection. Book your free collection