Eleven days ago I started a new job with Cardiff YMCA, Four days ago I left said job (and declined payment so maybe it was just a week of volunteering, who knows?)

Cardiff YMCA are an incredible organisation, probably one of the only true investors in people I have been involved in.  They have incredible Health @ Work Schemes and a community of staff who have a real love of the organisation and a passion for the work they do.  Unfortunately my role just wasn’t quite the right fit for me.

My five days in charity retail did get me thinking more about how charity shops fit into the current economy.  Last year while I was with the BHF F&E Store in Canton, a fellow volunteer altered my way of thinking with one incredibly powerful statement.

We are not a charity shop, we’re a shop that supports a charity!

My mind was blown by the revolutionary potential of this idea.  Are charity shops selling themselves short because they’re “just a charity shop”?  I have experienced organisations that settle for “okay” and justify it with the phrase “well we’re a charity so…”.

In a world of no frills supermarkets, disposable fashion and a positive view of frugality, this could be the golden age of trading to raise charitable funds.  To seize this opportunity, Charity shops need to upgrade their image.  Gone are the days of hotchpotch tat peddling, selling porcelain dogs for 50p that sit on the shelf for eight weeks before sale makes no sense.  Embrace a retailer from the private sector, if you just sell clothes and accessories, you’re a mini TK Maxx, if you sell a bit of everything you’re a tiny department store.  High quality in store environments and staff, paired with good quality items help to manage customers expectations.  Higher prices become more acceptable, making more money available to support the organisations charitable aims.  Customers will expect to compare prices with other high street shops rather than with the other 5 charity shops they pass every day.

Without a thought out plan for the future of charity retail I fear it will become a race to the bottom of the price war.

Until next time, lets talk about retail ideas or what other services you could facilitate in your shop, Hire me?