Keeping the “X-factor” as your charity shop chain grows

In the second of his series of blogs for us, Jacob Miller, Retail Operations Manager for Hobart City Mission in Tasmania, Australia offers his thoughts on working in Australia and the UK , and in small and large charities.


I have worked in a charm of charity shops.

Charm = my new collective noun for the caves of pre-loved treasures in which I have found myself employed.

Over 30 stores on the eastern seaboard of Australia and across the city of London. Are there differences between the two countries? I am not sure. Are there differences between large organisations and small ones – definitely.

Large not-for-profits play a huge role in the social and health benefits of our communities, and the charity shops associated with them are the enablers as both predominant income streams and the face of the brand. However, for me, and perhaps just for me, they can sometimes step away from the essential ‘x-factor’.

I am not sure what the maximum number of stores an organisation can have before it loses its ‘x-factor’ but employees at all levels and customers have seen and witnessed this loss before. I have worked for networks that have 9, 12, 30, 600 or 1000+ shops and perhaps the magic number is 30, or perhaps it is 100 but something changes.

We all know at a large organisation it can become difficult to connect with local community or to people-manage innovation.  Maybe it is the fact that in large organisations the strategic vision sometimes stays at the top with those that are in positions of leadership, and all we remember to pass down to stores is commercially minded and target-focused.

One of my learnings, from working in the UK and with more established charity retailers, is that sometimes targets and commercial focus adds value, but disconnects an organisation from its original vision and mission.

This seems counter-intuitive. Staff at charity shops are employed as retail staff and often thrive on KPIs, but it is the balance – the ability to connect to community and use their creativity combined with those targets, that brings success.

Let us all strive to balance the scales of fun and enjoyment with targets and profit.

Over to you

What’s your experience?

Is it harder to stay connected with the cause in a large charity? Or is it totally possible to keep inspiring your team – and in turn your supporters and your community – with your ethos and purpose, no matter how big your chain becomes?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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:

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