Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Spotlight on..... RSPCA Charity Shops

Spotlight on .... RSPCA Charity Shops

The focus on this Q&A session is to examine the work and role that charity shops have to play in supporting a charity network.
With thanks to: Lauren, Assistant Manager at RSPCA Chorlton Charity Shop

**the views contained within are those of the individual, and not representative of the RSPCA themselves as a registered charity**

The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals has existed since June 1824 where it was founded by a group of like-minded individuals based in London. It has since then grown into many chapters through out the UK. As the charity relies on public donations and public support to carry out its work, how long has the charity shop chain existed for and how does the charity shop chain support raising funds for the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch? 

The RSPCA Manchester and Salford branch is independent from the national RSPCA, and so is responsible for its own financial well being. Our four shops based in Chorlton, Didsbury, Urmston and the Northern Quarter provide a sizeable amount of income for the charity to help fund the animal rehabilitation and rehoming work the branch undertakes. The shops also help to keep our charity in the public eye, which is important because it inspires people to help us directly with cash donations.

As there are hundreds of charities based in the UK with different goals at heart through out the country, many of which use charity shops to raise funds for their own goals, this means there is competition on the high street for premium foot fall locations and for attracting attention from passers by to either donate goods or to purchase from the vast variety of wares on sale in any of the shops. What does the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch’s shops chain do in order to stand out from the crowd?

Our shops work hard to make sure they appeal to the general public and have the advantage of working for a highly popular cause: animals! I think the RSPCA Chorlton shop’s most important tool for standing out from the crowd is the window. We display the highest quality stock for passers by to take notice of, and try to make sure we're catering for all age groups. We even follow themes of popular holidays such as Christmas, and our personal favourite Halloween! Not only does the window give us a great opportunity to showcase our best stock and reasonable prices, but it lets our donors know that we really do make the most of the things they generously hand over to us.

What is the handling system for donations? could you talk us through what happens to an item from the point of where it is donated by a member of the public to the end point (sale). 

All of our donations are first checked for any imperfections that may make them unsalable. They are then sorted into departments and prepared for pricing. Bric-a-Brac is sorted and cleaned along with books and toys to be priced on the shop floor. Clothing is taken upstairs to be hung and steamed ready for pricing. Each item of stock has to be individually priced to ensure we maximise the amount we can raise whilst at the same time providing a fair and attractive price to the customer. We also receive money for recycling a variety of damaged items that cannot be sold.

Could you describe for our readers what a typical day at a charity shop is like? 

There is no such thing as a typical day at a charity shop! It's part of what makes the job so rewarding and exciting. You never know who might walk through the door, or what kind of donation you'll receive. A plan for the day is often made in the morning and by the afternoon it may have totally altered because someone has brought you their entire worldly possessions which need to be processed immediately or you'll fall behind. You need to be able to work fast and adapt to the constant changes around you, which makes it so much more interesting than any other type of retail work. 

During your time working with the RSPCA Manchester & Salford Branch, have there been any high points that sets working for a charity shop apart from working in other types of retail environment? 

One high point definitely springs to mind, but it started off as one of the lowest points I've had during my time with the RSPCA. I arrived at work one Monday morning to find donations piled up in the shop doorway, which isn't anything out of the ordinary. As I reached the bottom of the pile I saw a pet carrier, and my immediate retail reaction was 'I could probably get £5 for that'. Instantly my thoughts changed to 'I hope there's not an animal in there'. Lo and behold, as I picked up the pet carrier I found a very large cat staring back at me. As a shop worker I rarely find myself having difficult personal experiences with the animal side of the charity, and I was so sad to find such a lovely animal had been stuffed in a box and dumped on our doorstep. It was during a particularly busy period for our charity, and with the cattery and foster homes full we had to keep him in the office upstairs until there was room for him elsewhere. During this time we managed to transform Laurie the office cat from a timid hideaway into a confident puss who came to us for headbutts and treats. It was such a pleasure to help look after one of the animals in the charity's care, and I'm pleased to say he has now been rehomed! 

If there was anything you could say to the readers of Project52 to encourage them to make more use of the services provided by a charity shop, what would that be? 

Charity shops have come a long way in recent times and they work hard to offer a contemporary retail experience. For example, they offer a clean and comfortable shopping experience and, thanks to the generosity of the general public, offer high quality stock at affordable prices. This means that shopping for pleasure and necessity is something you can still enjoy given the current economic climate, all the while lining the food bowls of needy animals!

Finally, thank you for taking part in today's Q&A session from myself, and also thank you on behalf of the readers of Project52 for working hard to help support the raising of funds for the RSPCA to help the animals of the UK.

**the views contained within are those of the individual, and not representative of the RSPCA themselves as a registered charity**

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