Charity retail learning & development – what you told us

The Charity Consultancy recently ran an online poll to find out more about training, learning and development opportunities within charity shops.

We know from research carried out in 2019 by Charity Finance that 9% of charities (from their sample of 71) spend less than £20 per staff member per year on training. Although things are improving and spend increased by 10.7% in 2019, this is still a tiny amount of money and a sorry state of affairs.

Retail staff are such key members of any charity’s team. Often they will be the first point of contact for potential service users or supporters, so it’s vital that they are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to represent their charity, as well as being successful retail fundraisers. Our experience is that lots of shop staff learn on the job – they might bring skills from previous roles, often from commercial retail – but frequently they are ‘feeling their way’ through a complex and important role, which involves people and management skills, stock control, merchandising, finance, problem solving, conflict resolution and so much more.

Investing in these people is therefore vital.

We asked charities a short series of questions to find out more, and this is what you said:

Have you trained your retail team in any of these key areas in the last 2 years?
89% said they had trained staff in Gift Aid and in volunteer recruitment and retention.
65% had provided customer service and merchandising training
Only 40% had provided people management training and even fewer had worked with their teams on areas such as social media, stock acquisition and succession planning

What are your team’s top training needs for 2020?
Despite it being one of the most popular topics already covered, charities told us they still need to focus on volunteer recruitment and retention. This is no surprise as the Charity Shops Survey 2019 listed shortage of volunteers as one of the top areas of concern for charity leaders.
Managing people was also a big focus for this year – which ties in with making sure you look after the people you already have, as well as finding new ones.

How much did you spend last year training each of your staff team?
In line with what we had already seen, over 50% of the charities who responded spent less than £25 per head on training their team last year. The positive story though, is that 20% spent over £150 per head, showing that some charities really do understand the value of a well-trained team.

In the past how have you accessed training for your retail team?
Over 75% of respondents have provided in-house training in the past – we think this reflects the high amount of mandatory and health and safety training carried out by many hospices and other charities. It’s fantastic when you have people in your team who can share their skills and experiences with others, but sometimes it’s good to look outside too, to make sure you’re getting a fresh perspective and tapping into new developments and ideas.

When we asked how people would like to offer training in the future, there was a fairly even split between bespoke courses, attending external courses and 1-1 mentoring.

Who do you want to offer training to?
Over 50% were focussed on training for shop floor staff – managers and assistants, followed by 20% for Area Managers. This reiterates our point at the start of this blog – that those on the shop floor are often charities’ best asset, so it’s vital that to value and invest in them.

So….what next?
It’s been fascinating to get a better picture of what’s happening and what people want in terms of learning and development. At the Charity Retail Consultancy, we listen to our clients’ feedback and always have an eye out to see what the latest trends, developments and needs are across the sector. The information we’ve gathered has given us a great foundation and we will be offering training over the next 12 months in a number of ways.

We will be running a series of training courses across the country this year. These will include:

Volunteer Recruitment – how to properly identify the gaps in your team and know the best ways to fill them. We’ll be focussing on making the most of the rise of the environmental activist – and how your shops can be their place of choice to help save the planet. This course is a new twist on a long standing topic and not to be missed!

Space Management & Merchandising – a brilliant way to help shop teams understand how to make the best use of their available space and where to focus their attention to get the best possible return.

Stock acquisition – as securing good quality stock becomes even more of a challenge, this session helps everyone be responsible for attracting the right goods to sell.

Customer Service – a long standing topic but in these challenging times for the high street, giving your customers the best possible experience in your shops is vital. Learn how to make your shop experience one that your customers love – and keep them coming back time after time.

Places are £100 per delegate for a full day.

Contact for more information, and look out for our newsletters & social media for details.

We will also continue to develop and run bespoke training courses for whole teams, delivered at your choice of location and for up to 20 people at a time. Contact either Jayne or Vicki if you’re interested in a great value way to build your team’s skills.

We already offer mentoring and 1-1 coaching for senior staff and there are great deals to be had if you book several sessions in advance.

Training is always on our agenda and we are happy to discuss your requirements with you, so your team gets exactly what they need to be the very best they can be. Do get in touch if you have any questions or want to know more – and keep your eye out on our social media platforms and website for new sessions and information.

Twitter – @charityretailco
Facebook – @thecharityretailconsultancy
LinkedIn – @thecharityretailconsultancy
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email –
Tel – 07985 574904 / 07598 243210

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