Let’s acknowledge how well we’ve done

At The Consultancy, we’ve been reflecting over our pandemic journey recently.

It’s been really hard work, emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s also brought out the best in us both, as business women as well as in our personal and family lives. Like many others, we’ve worked really hard in less than ideal circumstances and we want to acknowledge that. And encourage others – especially women who often put down or underplay their achievements – to do the same.

We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved in the past year or so.

From the start, we wanted to support the sector as much as we could, so we offered free phone advice, worked with others to create helpful resources, supported the Charity Retail Association in its fantastic response to the pandemic and shared advice, information and stories via our growing social media presence.

We trained ourselves in how to run a website, how to blog, how to manage social media, register a trademark, become a Limited company, deliver the same quality of work online as we do in person and much, much more.

We flexed our already successful business to meet the challenges we were all facing. We developed Lockdown Learning – a simple, video based training suite – and it was a huge success. From there, we devised the concept of The Charity Retail Academy and brought a new arm of our business to life. From designing the logo to planning and devising the courses, from building our website to creating the Charity Retail Learning partnership with the Charity Retail Association – we did it all together, from the corners of our homes.

We also supported dozens of charities in our Consultancy work – including a 3 day week Director of Retail maternity cover post for 6 months – and we know from our clients’ feedback and our continuing relationship with many of them that we did a great job every time.

Now we’re all moving into the next phase of this pandemic journey, it feels right to stop and reflect. People are tired, there has been so much sadness around us all for such a long time and many people have been alone with that.

So it’s really, really important to notice the things you did well. The things you feel proud of.

Let’s take a moment every day to reflect on a good thing we’ve done – and ask others what they’re the most proud of too, so you can help them celebrate themselves as well.

And don’t forget to share those fantastic stories and achievements online! #GoTeamMe


Thank you

We couldn’t have achieved any of this without the help, support and partnership of our partners, family and friends, and many other businesses large and small, including: Patrick Hostler (logo & design), Jay Taylor (website), Dan O’Driscoll (Engagement Consultancy), Business Gateway (digital training), Robin Osterley, Julia Edwards, Susan Meredith and the team at the Charity Retail Association, Catherine Shuttleworth (sage advice and support), Anj Handa and her Inspiring Women Change Makers, the Lloyds Bank Foundation.

And of course all our Charity Retail Learning tutors – Zoe Amar from Zoe Amar Digital, Emily Beere at Thriftify, Sarah Baggaley, Ngozi Lyn Cole from GLT Partners, Billy Farrell from DEBRA, Michael Fleming and all the team at Nisyst, Kat Maclennan from Dot to Dot, Minoti Parikh at TPL Experiences, Pete Thomas at Lodge Service,    Anne Webb and Ailene Young from RNLI.

Finally thank you to all our followers and friends on social media. We always appreciate you being there.

More About Us

The Charity Retail Consultancy helps charity retailers and other non-profits (including museums and galleries) develop their retail operation, improve their product offer and people, and improve their profitability.

The Charity Retail Academy provides online & face to face training developed by charity retailers, for charity retailers. We work in partnership with the Charity Retail Association to deliver Charity Retail Learning to their members and beyond.

The Charity Retail Coach offers a first class executive coaching service via our Associate, Dan O’Driscoll.

To find out more or to speak to us about how we can help you, please get in touch:


Jayne – 07598 243210

Vicki – 07985 574904

Follow us on social media:


Looking after your team on their return from lockdown – a free resource for charity retailers

It’s been a long year.

In charity retail, as in all other aspects of life, things have been tough. As retailers we are used to being active, sociable and customer facing. The last year has seen for a large part our teams either furloughed at home or super busy at work, trying to juggle a myriad of different tasks under incredibly difficult circumstances.

Now more than ever, as we head towards reopening, it’s vital to make sure teams’ wellbeing is a top priority. Many people will be feeling nervous, vulnerable and disconnected. Some will have been ill themselves – and some will have lost loved ones.

What’s clear is it’s vital to focus not just on the practicalities of PPE, managing donations and covering shifts. We must also spend time thinking about how it feels emotionally to return to business, and how our teams’ mental health can be cared for too.

That’s why we are making our “Wellbeing leads to well doing” session free for anyone who needs it. This is a recording of a webinar we held towards the end of the first lockdown, looking at how restorative practice can help charity retail teams have a safe and healthy return to work. Run by Restorative Practitioner Sarah Baggaley, the session provides insight and practical tips on communication, support, self care and good mental health.

You can access the course for free here.

We hope you find it useful – and wish you a safe and successful return to trading.



Management Information Reporting for the Charity Sector – Providing bespoke solutions to help manage your charity shop chain

We are thrilled to be introducing the services of John Hodgson to The Consultancy.

John is a highly experienced retailer who has developed some fantastic new tools to help plan and deliver an effective, efficient and profitable charity retail offer.

John has worked with Barnardo’s, Sue Ryder and Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust (EHAAT) amongst others, so understands our sector well.

We are proud to have exclusive access to John’s work for our clients – so if you think this sounds like something you’re interested in for your team, please do get in touch.

We’ve invited John to tell you all about his work:

John Hodgson – Horizon Productivity Consultancy

Now more than ever, charity retailers need to be using data to drive business decisions.

I set up Horizon Productivity Consultancy after 35 years in commercial retailing.

Specialising in Management Information Reporting, Retail Operations and Productivity Fields, I bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the charity retail sector and have been working with both national and local charities to build management information tools that help drive businesses forward.

My reports have been designed to provide valuable information for all levels of management, encourage retail team competitiveness and focus attention on the key performance areas of your business.

I will work with you to ensure the reports meet your charity’s needs and give you the information you need to manage your business as effectively as possible.

Budget Hours Model

Silver and White Analog Gauge

This report provides a workload-based guide to the hours required to complete all store tasks, resulting in the right hours being used, in the right place, at the right time

The hours are calculated using carefully researched charity sector time standards and store specific profiling and base data, with a split provided for both paid and volunteer hours

Ideal for:

  • establishing the most appropriate paid and voluntary hours base for each store
  • budgeting
  • maximising productivity
  • setting new store hours
  • developing a good understanding of the time taken for each task assigned to the stores

Retail KPI Report

Macbook Pro Beside Papers

This report aims to motivate the store teams by sharing key information and constantly pushing to improve the selected KPIs

It is presented in a colour coded league table format over set periods, making it accessible and easy to understand for all retail teams

Ideal for:

  • comparing key performance stats across the chain
  • identifying ‘champion’ teams to establish and share best practice procedures
  • creating focus on areas for improvement
  • tracking improvement over a set period
  • informing, enabling and motivating shop teams

HR KPI Report

Crop anonymous ethnic woman passing clipboard to office worker with laptop during job interview

This report helps senior managers see at a glance their retail teams’ HR performance, benchmarked against other stores

It is presented in a colour coded league table format over set periods, making it accessible and easy to understand

Ideal for:

  • tracking take-up of mandatory training
  • providing an overview of other completed training
  • monitoring sickness and absence
  • tracking annual leave
  • controlling overtime costs

Store on a Page

Person Holding Blue and Clear Ballpoint Pen

This is your go-to report for the retail teams and is designed to capture all store performance data on one page

Suggested data can include:

  • Departmental Weekly & YTD Sales v last year and budget
  • Departmental sales / space comparisons
  • Key Metrics such as Gift Aid, average price, average transaction value
  • Paid and Volunteer hours used per week
  • HR Information including wage costs, staff turnover, absence etc

To find out more about any of the above reports please get in touch:

John Hodgson

Horizon Productivity Consultancy

07514 618 909


Introducing The Charity Retail Coach: helping YOU achieve your charity retail goals

We are thrilled to welcome Dan O’Driscoll to The Charity Retail Consultancy as an Associate Consultant where he will be providing executive coaching services to our clients. Dan runs his own business called Engagement Consultancy where he works as an executive coach and consultant with charities, universities and other non-profit organisations.

Dan tells us more about himself here:

“Over the past 15 years, my career has led me to work across different sectors in a variety of senior leadership roles, working for organisations such as Oxfam GB, the University of Birmingham and The Royal Bank of Scotland.

I’m a qualified executive coach through the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM Level 7) and an associate member of the European Mentoring & Coaching Council. I’m also qualified as a Mental Health First Aider.”

What’s involved in coaching?

Coaching is a confidential, one-to-one conversation with a trusted outsider. Conversations are typically focused on knowledge, skills and work performance. It provides a sounding board for a leader to have an unbiased conversation with someone outside of their organisation.

Coaching involves focused 1:1 work to help achieve your goals, challenge assumptions, provide resources and build confidence.

How can coaching help charity retailers?

Having been at Oxfam GB as Head of Volunteering & Engagement Dan knows what it’s like to work for a charity with a retail operation. He worked in the Trading Division for 7 years setting the tone and strategic direction as to how Oxfam engaged with volunteers, staff and shop teams. He understands the realities that senior leaders in retail face. Working with the Charity Retail Association and the Charity Retail Consultancy this year during Covid-19 Dan is acutely aware of the pressures that senior retail staff and their teams face.

Having that external voice to listen to what’s happening in your shops, working through difficult decisions and focusing on self improvement can be invaluable, especially during this challenging period.

Who would benefit from coaching?

Dan works with Senior Managers up to Directors and CEOs, either on an individual basis or as part of the senior team to facilitate group coaching.

How long does coaching take?

Typically you would have 6 sessions that last 90 minutes at a time. The approach is to listen to what you want to get out of the time together, explore what you want to achieve and then develop a bespoke programme around that to work on together. Session notes are written up with actions and sometimes work for you to complete.

If required, you can also book in a one off session.

What have Dan’s clients said?

“Dan really helped me to identify my future goals (as although I was aware of them, I struggled to communicate them effectively!) and offered some great ideas/steps to work towards them. I felt that the approach Dan took with me really challenged my mental blockers I’ve put up by way of deferring looking into a future career path/goals – his out of the box thinking, and through the use of deadlines, really motivated and excited me to work towards these goals. I left the session feeling really positive and excited about my future and feeling as though I had the tools/resources to work towards it.”

Sophie, Senior Project Lead

 “It goes without saying that Dan has been a crucial sounding board for me over these last few months. Working with him has been extremely rewarding, proactive and career-changing.

I don’t know of anyone in this industry that could offer such dedicated support and guidance in the way Dan does, and I know I wouldn’t feel as confident in my future career path and way forward without having worked with him in these tricky times.”

Penny, Senior Curator

 “I am incredibly grateful for Dan’s time and expertise throughout our sessions.  I think one of our biggest successes was our ability and willingness to communicate openly with each other, and Dan being confident to push and challenge me through various situations.  One thing I really enjoyed was that our sessions were never the same and Dan ALWAYS took into account my goals to tailor our sessions.  I feel like I learned something professionally, and about myself personally, in each session.  And not small things, but things I will continue to reflect on and use to develop in the years to come.”

Erin, Head of Alumni Relations

If executive coaching is something that you’re interested in finding out more, then get in touch with Dan to have an informal conversation.

Email: hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

LinkedIn: Daniel O’Driscoll

Website: Mentoring & Coaching – The Charity Retail Consultancy

Tel: 07515 395683


A history of charity shops

Jayne and Vicki were both very happy to join in with a brilliant virtual walk through charity shop history this week.

Shopping for a cause

The session was part of the brilliant Being Human festival  and was presented by Dr Georgina Brewis, Associate Professor in the History of Education at UCL, Dr George Gosling, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Wolverhampton and chaired by Lauren Bravo, journalist and author of How To Break Up With Fast Fashion.

We already knew about the ‘official’ first charity shop, run by Oxfam on Broad Street in Oxford, and that British Red Cross had actually had something similar prior to that during the war. But this session taught us that charity shopping – albeit a bit different to how we know it today – was actually happening as far back as the 1700s!

We were so enthralled by the session that we asked if we could share the recording with you here – and very kindly The British Academy who put it on said yes.

So – find a comfy seat, put on your best charity shop slippers, pour yourself a drink in your best charity shop mug and enjoy an hour of indulgence in the history of our wonderful sector….

Watch the video here


Equity, diversity and inclusion in charity retail – how we can make a positive change.

In the UK we’ve become much more conscious of the Black Lives Matter movement during lockdown, and many of us are aware of a rise in overt racism in society. For our training arm – The Charity Retail Academy – we decided that one of our first webinars must focus on how the charity shop sector can understand and challenge racism as it arises.

What’s happening in the sector?

We know there is so much we all need to do. The movement, Charity So White, has challenged us to really examine our own in-built prejudice as individuals and a sector, and is making real progress in bringing the issue to the fore.

The Charity Retail Association created an excellent action plan for change and are holding a session on how we can work together to create a more inclusive sector at this week’s New Charity Retail Conference.

Last week, Barnardo’s came under terrible racist fire online when they released a guide for parents about how to speak to their children about white privilege. The sector stood beside Barnardo’s and ACEVO (The Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) issued an anti-racism statement of support. This has been signed by almost 200 Chief Executives.

Racism happens in charity shops too.

We see and hear discriminatory language and behaviour and despite not agreeing with what is being said, many people feel ill-equipped to challenge it. This can be for several reasons, some of which we cover here.

“I don’t want to make a public scene”

Sometimes, when something is said on a shop floor, the public nature of the incident makes people feel they can’t ‘escalate’ it by challenging it there and then. Once the moment has passed, they find it hard to discuss it again with the individual. Or if it was from a customer, they may have left before you have worked out what to say.

“They meant it as a joke”

Racism, sexism, homophobia and other non-inclusive behaviour is sometimes expressed as a ‘joke’.  Challenging it might receive a response such as “Oh for goodness sake, haven’t you got a sense of humour?” or “I don’t really mean it it’s just a bit of fun”.  These responses can make the challenger feel uncomfortable and/or silenced.

“They’re from a different time….”

There can sometimes be a perception that discriminatory behaviour from older people (who make up a large proportion of UK charity shop volunteers) is acceptable because they simply don’t understand how life have moved on and things were different “in their day”.

“I don’t know enough about it to challenge effectively”

If you feel uninformed yourself about the issues around discrimination and inclusion, it can feel scary to challenge. You might be scared you will end up ‘lost’ in the argument somewhere, feeling foolish and not achieving the change you wanted.

How we can help

All of these and more end up being used to allow discriminatory behaviour go unchallenged in our sector.  At The Charity Retail Consultancy, we know that we all have unconscious bias and we are committed to a fairer, non-discriminatory future. This is why we are working with Ngozi Lyn Cole to deliver an online session called Equity, diversity and inclusion for charity retailers. We believe this is the first ever course to specifically address these issues in a charity retail context.

This interactive 2.5 hour session will:

  • ensure delegates are more aware of their own and others’ unconscious bias
  • openly discuss the challenges and situations they face in their charity retail work
  • support delegates to develop ways to effectively challenge non-discriminatory behaviour and language.

We understand the conversation may feel uncomfortable at times for some people but our session will be run in a safe environment where people can express themselves without the fear of ‘getting it wrong’

For more details and to sign up for a place on this important live course are here

If you prefer, we can deliver course as a bespoke session for your team – contact us at hello@thecharityretailacademy.co.uk for more details and prices.


How to make sure your charity shops have the volunteers they need post COVID-19

We speak to lots of charity retailers every day and unanimously at the moment, you are telling us that a shortage of volunteers is your biggest challenge.

Since shops reopened, charities have seen a downturn in volunteer numbers as people are nervous about returning. Some are shielding themselves or family members, others feel unsure about being in a public facing role – and some have just taken the decision during lockdown to step down from their volunteer roles altogether to spend their spare time in a different way.

With the recent announcements from the UK and devolved Governments, uncertainty and worry is rising, meaning encouraging people back into your shops is even more challenging.

At the recent The Charity Retail Association Build Back Better Conference, we heard again and again from speakers and delegates alike that this is the biggest worry facing charity retailers today.

To help you navigate through these difficult times, our training arm, The Charity Retail Academy ran a webinar with our friend and associate, Dan O’Driscoll. The session guides you through insights, ideas, tips and practical hints in creating a volunteering strategy for the next 12-18 months:

UPDATE: August 2021 – You can now download and view the recording of the webinar here FREE

You can find out more about the Academy and and webinar here.

We’ll cover a wide range of new ideas and developments in volunteering during the session but here’s some questions to get you started:

Think differently

Neon Signage

Now more than ever it’s important to be creative and innovative in how you appeal to new volunteers. This can be applied in several ways:

Who are you appealing to? Take a look at your brand, your whole retail offer and your existing team. Who do you appeal to? Do you need to broaden your reach? Are there certain groups of people who are under-represented in your teams that could bring a whole new perspective and set of skills to your operation? Broaden your horizons and make sure your existing team is ready to welcome new volunteers with open arms and open minds.

What do you expect? The more prescriptive you are with the practicalities in your volunteering opportunities, the more doors may close to you. Be flexible – with times, location, regularity and you will open up to a much wider range of people.

Look at your roles. Are you offering a wide range of interesting, meaningful roles for volunteers? Are you clear about what you expect from them? When was the last time you revisited the roles you have on offer and checked to see if they are still relevant? What new roles are now available in the light of your new ways of working?

How do you communicate? How do you let your community know that you need them to volunteer with you? Make your messages strong and consistent. Focus on the benefits of volunteering to the volunteer, not just to you – and make sure you’re asking in the right places, and using the right platforms.

Being creative, flexible and forward thinking is key right now. Our Webinar will help you take a step back, focus on the big picture and consider how you move forwards from here.

UPDATE: August 2021 – Download and view the recording of the webinar here FREE

More About Us

The Charity Retail Consultancy helps charity retailers and other non-profits (including museums and galleries) develop their retail operation, improve their product offer and people, and improve their profitability.

The Charity Retail Academy provides online & face to face training developed by charity retailers, for charity retailers. We work in partnership with the Charity Retail Association to deliver Charity Retail Learning to their members and beyond.

The Charity Retail Coach offers a first class executive coaching service via our Associate, Dan O’Driscoll.

To find out more or to speak to us about how we can help you, please get in touch:


Jayne – 07598 243210

Vicki – 07985 574904

Follow us on social media:



Harnessing the nation’s new skills

How was lockdown for you?

For many, it has been a really difficult and challenging time, worrying about our own and our loved ones’ health, missing seeing friends and family and not being able to do lots of things we enjoy.

For some too, it’s been a time to reflect, to get some peace and quiet – perhaps to make decisions about how we want to live our lives in the future and understanding what’s really important to us.

However it was for you, we bet you’ve done at least one thing you’ve never done before.

People on a Video Call

Take Zoom for example – hands up if you were regularly video calling pre-lockdown? We know we weren’t. Or what about planning shopping for you and perhaps friends, family and neighbours who are vulnerable, using online ordering and working out what to do when there’s no loo roll or pasta available?  And let’s not even get started on making sourdough and banana bread …

For lots of us, whether we know it or not, lockdown has made us learn new skills.

At The Charity Retail Consultancy, we realised pretty early on that a lot of our usual work visiting shops, undertaking audits, reviews and training, was all going to stop. So we quickly thought about how we could help and what we could do. Within a couple of weeks we had devised, filmed and delivered four initial video training sessions for shop staff that we called Lockdown Learning. It was as much a learning for us as it has been for the hundreds of shops staff who have since watched the sessions – we’re really proud of our new technical skills and are using them to develop more exciting sessions for the sector in the coming weeks and months.

So – what’s been your lockdown learning and how can you make sure that you and your team can make the most of it in your shops? Have you taken to using social media to keep in touch where you didn’t really do it before? Have you overcome your fear of technology? Have you realised you’re way more creative that you thought now you’ve finally had the time to decorate your bedroom after watching Escape to the Chateau on a loop?

All of these skills are transferable to the workplace. Communicating differently – perhaps more regularly – with your team can mean that engagement with the charity and problem solving becomes easier. Trusting your shop teams to use social media themselves, allowing them to embed themselves into their new, tighter-knit community will be a huge and beneficial step forward for some.

Understanding how to appeal to a post-COVID customer base will be vital in future success for many charities and the shared and individual learning we have all gone through is going to be a huge help.

Our session at the Build Back Better Conference is all about looking forward and making the most of your and your teams’ new skills. We’ve already got lots of examples but we always love to hear more, so if you want to tell us about what you’ve learned, please drop us a line at hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk We’re really looking forward to hearing from you and sharing all the brilliant and inventive things our sector is up to. See you there!

Hear more from The Charity Retail Consultancy, sponsors of the the Build Back Better Conference, 22 – 24 September 2020 – info and booking here.

How do we get enough volunteers into our charity shops now we’ve reopened? 

At The Charity Retail Consultancy we recently undertook a survey of almost 300 charity shops to find out their biggest reopening challenge post COVID-19. Resoundingly, it was a lack of volunteers returning to the roles they had before lockdown.

Why are volunteer numbers down?

Understandably, people are nervous and scared to return to normal. Many volunteers working in charity shops are over 70, and although there is no official guidance to say these people can’t return, having been seen as ‘vulnerable’ all through the pandemic it is natural that they feel worried and perhaps more susceptible to the virus.

For those who have been shielding very vulnerable friends and family members, going back to work in a public facing role is something that doesn’t seem possible just now.

Generally, coming out of lockdown is a challenge for many of us. Young or old, we have been living a different life over the past few months, mainly in the safe nest of our homes. Stepping out into the big word again feels odd and even dangerous.

Volunteering is fundamentally something that people do through choice – they are under no obligation to do it. If we are looking at how to manage non-essential contact to keep the virus under control, volunteering could be seen to fall into that category.

What does this mean for charity shops?

For some, it simply means they are unable to reopen at all. We know of several charities who are either remaining entirely closed, or are just able to open some of their shops on reduced hours. St Gemma’s Hospice, Leeds spoke eloquently on our You and Yours feature about the impact on their chain of 24 shops and how they were able to open just 9 shops with primarily paid staff as many of their volunteers couldn’t or didn’t want to return.

Pic: Nicola Woodgate, Head of Communications at St. Gemma’s Hospice speaks to BBC Radio 4


So what can charity shops do?

All is not lost – there are ways to help improve the situation and we have worked with Dan O’Driscoll from Engagement Consultancy to produce some tips and ideas for you here.

Supporting the volunteers you already have.

A great idea shared by several charities is to invite volunteers to the shop before reopening so they can see what precautions you have taken and the safety measures in place. This can also be done after reopening but outside of trading hours.

Having all the right PPE and safety measures in place for your volunteers is a must. Taking time to source comfortable masks and/or visors, providing gloves for sorting, hand sanitiser for the back room as well as shop floor and easy to follow safety instructions will all help the team feel safer to return.

Pic: Highland Hospice, Dornoch Shop


For those charities who have connected with their volunteers during lockdown on social media via platforms such as WhatsApp or Facebook, this is a great opportunity to share information and swap success stories. As a national charity, Oxfam has had phased openings across the country, and volunteers in earlier opening stores have been able to tell of their experiences via a national Facebook group, which has helped reassure others waiting to return.

Recruiting volunteers.

10 practical tips that you can do to support volunteer recruitment, retention and engagement. 

1 Start with your team – It’s easier to retain a volunteer than to recruit a new person. Whilst in lockdown, everyone has been taking the time to engage and communicate with their volunteers, in a way that hasn’t happened at scale before. Now that we’re phasing out of lockdown, it can be easy to stop engaging and communicating with your team. For some volunteers, now is not the right time to come back, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be volunteering in the future. It can be hard to juggle communicating to volunteers who are back and those that aren’t, but it’s vital that engagement is continued.

2 Going back to your existing contacts and getting in touch with them again. This could be local corporate partners, organisations that you have had relationships with before or previous volunteers. Start communicating that you are open for business and that you need people to support you. Write out a template that you can email and personalise

3 Be clear with your ask. What do you need right now to get you through this period. You may have to balance recruiting volunteers who have specialist skills against volunteers who have time. What is the greatest need in your shop? For the short term, you may just need to recruit someone who is able to staff the front door of the shop to manage customer numbers. Is it essential for you to recruit a specialist book volunteer now? Plan out what are the essential roles to recruit for. 

4 Flexible volunteering / short term. Being flexible in your offer is really attractive to potential volunteers. Some people might have a few weeks or more left until they are off furlough. Can you advertise that you are able to take on people on a short term basis so that they are able to make a contribution. This could be four shifts in total, but it could mean the difference between opening and closing the shop. Can you offer micro volunteering roles? Do volunteers have to come into the shop? Are you able to create virtual volunteering opportunities that people are able to complete at home? 

5 Researching what are the places that are open in your local community. Supermarkets might be the only places that are busy. Communities are reopening differently, therefore knowing what’s happening where you are is key. If locals are just going food shopping, can you contact Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi,  etc to see if they are willing to let you advertise roles? Can you drop some materials off for their staff to share?

6 Using digital advertising to your advantage. How can your existing team support you in spreading the word in your community digitally? Having a presence locally either through your social pages or being part of online community groups (e.g. resident Facebook groups) can further your reach and engagement. Have you set up your own social media accounts? With businesses having to adapt their offer and moving services online, how can you react to that? Local business networking meetings are still happening, but they’ve moved online. Can you join and talk about your shop and your offer? Are you able to talk to local businesses? 

Close-up Photography of Smartphone Icons

7 Are you able to review your processes to take on volunteers quicker? Some charities are adapting their processes during reopening to make it easier for new volunteers to join. This may be a temporary change and you must still make sure that you’re safe and legal in recruiting volunteers, but what can you do to speed up the process of them joining and making a contribution, e.g. getting references over the telephone instead of email/letter. Is this an opportunity to cut down on some on the internal bureaucracy?

8 Talk about the difference that volunteering is going to make to your beneficiaries. Volunteering isn’t always about gaining skills for your CV. We’ve seen the power of volunteering in bringing people together during the pandemic. For many, this could be their first time volunteering. How can you showcase the impact of what that person can do whilst they are volunteering for your shop?

9 Keeping it local. A report published by the New Local Government Network highlights the impact that local community groups or Mutual Aid Groups (MAGs) have had on communities during Covid-19. What the report demonstrates is how important the local community is in bringing people together and supporting each other. Making sure that your shop is part of that conversation within your local community is paramount. If you’re not part of your community, then you’re not going to be able to engage with your potential new volunteers. 

10 Last but not least, is to have a plan. Whatever approach you take, write down what you’re going to do, what support you need and when you’re going to do. Writing down a plan makes it real and you’re far more likely to follow through and do it. Don’t give up, persistence is key. If something isn’t working then it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, it might not be the right time for that approach. Move on to the next idea and keep trying 🙂

If you need a recruitment plan template, then please get in touch. 

Here are some links to resources and great examples from across the sector

We worked with the You and Yours team at BBC Radio 4 to put together a feature on volunteering in charity shops. St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds did a great interview from their Moortown shop and listeners were pointed to how they can help. You can listen to it here. 

The Charity Retail Association, in association with corporate member Wil-U, has set up a fantastic new site where people can sign up to be a charity shop volunteer. Details are passed to relevant local member charities to make contact and set up arrangements to get started. There have been 1000 sign ups so far, showing how much interest there is in helping out. 


The RSPCA have created a fabulous micro volunteering offer. It’s been so successful that the roles have all been filled, however their role profile is a great example of a template that you could use. 

Cancer Research Wales have taken the opportunity to revamp their volunteer role profiles during lockdown. Working with Vicki from our Consultancy, they put together some fab roles such as “Shop Superstar”, “Driver’s (Best) Mate” and “Merchandising Maestro” to help attract new volunteers. 

St Barnabas Hospice in Lincolnshire put out this great press release encouraging school leavers to volunteer in their shops https://www.facebook.com/StBarnabasLinc/posts/2995997283801

Save the Children have developed a great new role of Volunteer Greeter to encourage people  to join the team and help with social distancing and queue management as part of the new safety measures. 

We loved this image shared by Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Retail Team on Twitter, showing how how volunteering has lots of different benefits

Shelter have launched this great new recruitment campaign, picking up on the kindness shown and felt throughout Lockdown


The sector has so far had a really successful reopening, but there’s no doubt that getting the right volunteers in the right place at the right time to support the shops into the future is a challenge. But we have seen from the many examples in this blog that charity retailers are resilient and innovative people and we are sure that the sector will be back to full strength again soon.

About us & contact details

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. 

We are charity retail experts and can help you with all aspects of your reopening and beyond.

To learn more or to arrange an informal chat, contact us at hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk, visit our website or call us:

Vicki Burnett –        07985 574904        

Jayne Cartwright – 07598 243210      

We specialise in strategic planning, audience engagement and learning & development interventions. Focusing on volunteering, staff and supporters in the not for profit and higher education sector. Dan also works as an Executive Coach to improve performance, unlock potential and support new recruits in their first senior leadership role. 

Daniel O’Driscoll – 07515 395683      


Main pic: Phyllis Tuckwell shop, Guilford

The roller coaster of reopening charity shops – what we know so far

The last few months have been a huge challenge for charity retailers, and not only because of the heartache and loss of income that closing shops created. The enormous job of planning reopening – on shifting sands as guidance changed daily – has been a gargantuan effort by the whole sector. Now that we are here and reopening is happening we thought we’d take a moment to share some of the early findings from charity retailers we’ve been speaking with across the UK.

It’s good to be back

Hooray! The high street, customers, donors and lots of staff and volunteers are delighted to see shops trading again. Overall, the first few days and weeks are looking positive as everyone settles into the new normal.  Sales have been reported to be really buoyant and in lots of cases up on this time last year which is great news

Pic: Highland Hospice, Beauly Shop

Stock is abundant – but not necessarily brilliant

As predicted, the nation’s lockdown clear outs have produced unprecedented amounts of stock, all arriving in a short space of time. Many charities have been inventive, intelligent and innovative in how deal with this anticipated wave of donations. Timed collections and deliveries, drive-through drop offs, pre-opening donation days, videos, social media, press and TV have all been used to manage the influx really well.

As with all donations, not all of it is saleable – quality has been reported to be lower than average, so sorting – including a 72 hour quarantine period – is having to be carefully managed. Additionally, rag merchants aren’t fully up and running yet, so disposing of unwanted/unsaleable stock is proving a challenge. Some charities are selling their own waste textiles online in bundles, others have their own rag processing systems, some are storing it until the price rises and the wheels are fully turning again before selling it on.

Pic: St Barnabas Hospice, Lincolnshire, Donation Drive-Thru,

Collections are possible

Many charities, especially those who rely heavily on furniture, have managed to get their collection services up and running again. Drivers and their mates have used cab dividers, masks, visors, hand sanitiser, gloves and other PPE. Donors are asked to bring their item out of the house where possible, but if this can’t happen, they are asked to wait in another room whilst the goods are collected. Early reports are that furniture sales are going well.

Customers are complying with the rules – mostly!

Overwhelmingly, charities are telling us that their customers are patient, kind and accepting of the new rules. Many shops have hand sanitiser by the door and most customers are using this as they enter and leave the shop, meaning items touched as they browse aren’t being contaminated.  Social distancing is something we are used to now and customers are happy to oblige.

Most charities have closed their changing rooms and are backing this up with a robust refund policy so customers can buy with confidence. This hasn’t stopped some people trying goods on in the shops though – despite signs asking them not to, so this is something to watch out for.

Volunteers are nervous about returning

By far the biggest issue we have been told about is a shortage of volunteers. Whilst some volunteers can’t wait to get back to work, many are simply too nervous to return, worried about infection and adjusting to being back out in the big wide world after such a long time.

There are many ways charities are trying to help with this:

  • Inviting volunteers to come and see the shop before it reopens, to help them see the measures in place to help keep them safe;
  • Keeping in touch via phone and social media, sharing positive stories, sometimes from other fellow volunteers, to help build confidence and remove the unknown;
  • Opening shops in phased way and allowing space at the start and end of each day to replenish and clean down without customers around;
  • Recruiting new volunteers from a variety of sources – including some of the brilliant schemes the Charity Retail Association has set up for its members;
  • Fast-tracking new volunteers and accepting offers of help for limited time periods, rather than asking for a long term commitment.

Some shops won’t make it

Sadly, some shops won’t reopen. We know of several charities who have taken the tough decision to close one or more of their shops permanently. This is mainly where they simply can’t make a profit with social distancing guidelines in place – often small shops where not enough customers or volunteers can come in at once to make it work. This is heart breaking for all involved – especially as we know that charity shops are so much more than “just a shop”. Many directly offer their charities’ services, by providing volunteering opportunities or drop in sessions for their service users, or signposting help, advice and support. These closures will impact on the vulnerable in our society at a time when they so desperately need help and support.

Online is growing

Inevitably, many charities have taken the opportunity to focus on growing their online operations. Some continued to trade online throughout lockdown, others chose to pause and some hadn’t got going yet – but undoubtedly there will be a big focus on selling online as we move forwards. As the best entry point for online selling, eBay have generously offered free training for charities either starting up or growing their eBay operation, so do make sure you sign up.

Charity shops are here to stay

Despite all that has been thrown (sometimes literally!) at the sector, charity shops are bouncing back once again. Having ridden the storms of recession and being blamed for the decline of the high street over the past decade, we know that our beloved charity shops are here to stay. As we said at the beginning of all this, our wonderful sector is still proving itself to be thoughtful, resourceful, creative and resilient – saving the planet, raising millions of pounds for  huge range of causes and keeping the high street buzzing. You just can’t keep a good charity shop down.

Welcome back everyone – we missed you.

Pic: Marie Curie Community Hub, Bristol

Title pic: Oxfam, Harborne

The Charity Retail Consultancy are charity retail experts and can help you with all aspects of your reopening and beyond.

To learn more or to arrange an informal chat, contact us at hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk  or visit our website

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