Charity workers go that extra mile to make their customers smile

August 12 2015

IT takes a lot of skill running one of St Peter’s Hospice’s 47 charity shops.

Some of the winning team of workers (from left to right): Sue Cole, part-time assistant manager, volunteers Angela Wakley, Gerald Marshall, Dee Higgs, Pauline Collins, Jenny Read, assistant full-time manager Linda May, volunteer Kath Brock and full-time manager Sue White

IT takes a lot of skill running one of St Peter’s Hospice’s 47 charity shops.
For every worker and volunteer knows how crucial they are in raising the £18,000 per day it takes to keep the hospice running.
So it was no mean feat when a group of workers from the Downend store bagged a prestigious gong when they were named Shop Team of the Year at a national awards ceremony.
The accolade, presented at the recent Charity Retail Association Awards, was won as a result of impressive sales figures and a host of fundraising ideas by the shop team over the past year.
The combination of an increase in sales as well as excellent recruitment and retention of volunteers wowed the judges.
Spearheading the team are four paid members of staff, two full-time and two part-time.
Supporting them are 28 volunteers, whose commitment ranges from just a few hours a week to 20 hours a week. But they all have one thing in common - they are happy to give up their time for free to help one of Bristol’s best loved charities.
The team is run by shop manager Sue White who took her 35 years’ experience at retail giant Marks and Spencer into her role when she became manager two years ago.
She certainly knows her stuff - even establishing a special area for designer items to cater for the many people who go to charity shops specifically looking for high end goods at knock down prices.
And if your budget is more modest, there’s also a pound basket containing brilliant bargains for cash conscious consumers.
Rails are colour co-ordinated and put in size order. Window displays often capture the spirit of current events - including a recent Wimbledon-themed window with white clothes and tennis racquets.
Sue, 53, said: “In my first year I drove sales, training and the number of volunteers who joined us. I drove everything which had been embedded in my job as section manager at M and S.
“I could see there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm from the volunteers and I was able to pinpoint their strengths and use them to the shop’s advantage. I have one lady who can’t come in very often as she looks after her parents but she sorts all the jewellery for me. She takes it home and sits with her mum and they sort through it, string necklaces and price items up. Then she comes in and dresses all the stands so they look eye-catching.”
Another example is a young lad in his 20s who has a degree in IT. He has been trained by Sue to do the administration for the shop.
The oldest volunteer is 80-year-old Gerald Marshall who has worked at the shop for 10 years. He brings his experience of book keeping to ensure the accounts are ship shape.
Some volunteers come from the local area but others travel across Bristol to work at the Badminton Road shop.
Sue said: “Every one of the volunteers knows the impact of giving good service. People who come in with donated goods might have lost a family member so it’s important everyone is sympathetic, engaging and welcoming towards customers so they want to donate or shop with us again.
“It doesn’t matter if someone spends £1 on a book or £20 on a beautiful piece of glassware - every customer should be treated with a great deal of respect so they feel they have had a nice experience with us.”
Sue, who is married to Dave and has two sons, Jakob and Alfie, said: “Since the day I started I’ve always said it’s a pleasure to come to work. When I go to bed I’m always thinking of what we can do in the shop the next day. It’s just lovely because I’ve been given the reins and St Peter’s respects what I’ve been able to bring to the shop and what I’ve been able to do to enhance it.
“We all love it here - there’s a sense of fun, a sense of hard work and a sense of dedication to the hospice. We all know what we need to take on the till as it costs £18,000 a day to run the hospice. We come to work knowing that everything we put out on the shop floor is an opportunity for the hospice to make money.”
Volunteer Angela Wakley, who lives in Downend and helps at the shop for eight hours a week, said: “Sue is the main character - she’s brilliant. She gets everyone buzzing and motivated.
“I enjoy it so much. They’re such a lovely team of people.”
John Flanagan, of St Peter’s Hospice, said: “We have 47 charity shops across Bristol which not only provide our customers with brilliant bargains but also generate vital funds for the hospice which cares for life-limited adults in Bristol. Without these funds we would not be able to continue doing the work we do.”  
As Bristol’s only adult hospice, St Peter’s Hospice cares for more than 2,670 patients each year as well as supporting family members.
All services are provided free of charge but this care costs around £18,000 a day. For around £14,000 of that, the hospice relies on gifts in wills, kind donations and funds generated by the hospice shops.