Shop News Banner (1)

Vibrant Hospice Shop Attracts Shoppers and Young Volunteers

Interview with Jimmy Stuart

Shop News Banner (1)

Vibrant Hospice Shop Attracts Shoppers and Young Volunteers

Interview with Jimmy Stuart

Vibrant Hospice Shop Attracts Shoppers and Young Volunteers

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.

“I’m sure many people think you just sell something and fill the cash register, but there is so much more to running a charity shop. We like to make things what you call ‘shoppable’. For instance, shoppers need to be able to go through a rail of clothes without something falling off its hanger. We also make sure the store is always clean – it’s the little things that really help. Emily and I are good at keeping our outgoings low, and by doing that we are making more money for ellenor.

“We always need volunteers here. Ideally you need a four-person team to run a shop, but most of the time we are one or two people.”

Jimmy’s own son Alex, 17, started working at the King Street store as a volunteer when lockdown ended and the experience he gained helped him get a full-time position at the Clarks shoe shop in Gravesend.

Jimmy said: “Alex and the others have learned fantastic customer service here. We greet everyone who comes into the store. I know some of the older folk can find it intrusive, but we are just acknowledging them. If someone walks in here it’s like they have walked into your home.”

The King Street shop is on the edge of town, but it does get a lot of customers who are using the nearby bus stop. Jimmy is also proud to explain that shoppers are happy to walk out of the main shopping area to visit the store as it has a glowing reputation.

He jokes: “It is known as ‘the good one’ by charity shop goers in Gravesend.”

Clothes are regularly rotated between the 12 shops run by ellenor throughout Kent and Bexley. King Street stocks clothes, shoes, accessories, bric-a-brac and toys – and books and DVDs still sell like hotcakes there.

Jimmy said: “It’s a perfect way to save money and recycle. They are 50p each or three for £1, and of course a lot of people re-donate them afterwards.

“Our biggest sellers are ladies’ tops and shoes. They all want a new top for a new occasion. Funnily enough, men’s clothes are rarely donated. I think it’s because men will wear a t-shirt with a hole in it for years. Men’s leather belts are like gold dust. They keep them for years and if they get a bit bigger round the waist, they just make another hole!”

Follow this link to find your nearest ellenor charity shop

To find out more about volunteering, go to