A charity store has become an enterprising hub for shoppers – and for young people keen to work their way up the ladder of the retail trade.
Jimmy Stuart, 33, is Assistant Manager at hospice charity ellenor’s King Street shop in Gravesend. Since he started work there two years ago, he has put everything he has learned throughout his retail career into practice. He and shop Manager, Emily Coates, also encourage young people to volunteer in the store to improve their retail skills and boost their CVs.
Jimmy said: “For some reason, a lot of places don’t want to take young people on, but here we can teach them how retail works. We show them the charity shop way of doing things, but we also tell them how it would be done in the larger retail world. We can help them with references and CVs, enabling them to mention the key things employers will be looking for – shop standards, merchandising, daily targets and so on.
“Just before the start of the holidays we had five individuals come in here asking for volunteer work. They had been all round Gravesend asking for work experience, with no luck. They have all learned the till so easily over the summer and now they are off to sixth form or university with a lot of new skills.”
Jimmy has also swapped skills with some of the shop’s long-term volunteers including Janet Hughes, who has volunteered there for 24 years and is known affectionately as “the book lady”, and Angela Driscoll Hicks, also a veteran of more than 20 years.
He said: “Angela is open minded, goes to church, has a big family and still finds time to come in here and help out.”
Jimmy is proud to be part of such a diverse team at the King Street store.
He said: “I love working for a charity, knowing I am not just filling some fat cat’s pocket. I’ve always wanted to do a job like this.
“We are the local charity. If you have lived in Gravesend all your life, you or someone you know will have been helped by ellenor. It is not just a hospice; it is a hospice that comes to your home and is also part of the community.”
Jimmy has lived in Gravesend since he was four years old and has worked in retail nearly all his adult life as a merchandiser, manager and fitter -- and has orchestrated large exhibitions and charity events.
"A keen photographer, Jimmy has a good eye for detail and believes his dyspraxia and dyslexia give him a useful perspective."
He said: “I do see a lot of things differently and I am good at problem solving. I have a lot of transferable skills, and I enjoy training others.