Katy Wort, our E-commerce Assistant and Assistant Shop Manager, joined our hospice just over three months ago after undertaking her own fundraising challenge to help raise money for us. Here, she discusses her motivations for joining the Trading Team, some of the experiences she has had and both the benefits and challenges of charity retail.
“I actually started as a volunteer at St Catherine’s – I’d been selling quite a lot of my own things (such as any clothes that I no longer wore) on Depop, an online selling platform, during the first lockdown as something to do because I was bored. From there, I started buying things from car bootsales as I realised that I could buy an item for 50p and sell it online for more to make some money.
I had great fun doing it as I’ve always enjoyed charity shopping, bargain hunting and just finding something a little bit different.
After doing this for a while, I had the idea of doing a fundraiser for a local charity to help raise some money, particularly as I knew many of the charity shops were closed due to lockdown. I approached St Catherine’s as they were one of the smallest charities in Horsham, and decided that I would sell some of my clothes, friends’ clothes, neighbours clothes etc. online, donating all the money raised to the hospice. This is when I first began talking to our Head of Trading, Gary.
Gary recognised a need for an online presence when it came to charity retail.
He thought I was making too much work for myself by finding items to sell from my friends and family, so instead offered that I take a few items from the store, take them home and see if I could sell those. I think I only raised approximately £200-£300 in the end but I think it proved that actually we needed to look more into selling online, not only on eBay but also through other channels as well – particularly if we are looking to target a younger audience.
Gary agreed and created an ecommerce role; I went through the application process with all the other candidates, got the job and then started working here!
Originally, I thought I wanted to be a primary school teacher.
I’d finished college just before starting at StCH – I’d taken maths, English and art and then took a Foundation Art course at East Surrey College. When I completed the course, I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do next and though university was an option, I wasn’t sure and so thought the work experience would be really beneficial for me.
It’s such a great cause as well; it’s quite interesting working for a non-profit and knowing that, even though you’re a paid member of staff, you’re doing some good and getting money for charity.
There were definitely some difficulties along the way.
When I first started, it was quite challenging in the respect that these sorts of things can take a while to perform – I had a period where I thought ‘oh no, I’m not selling anything’, but then as soon as I did make a sale, it showed me that I was doing something right and things were heading in the right direction.
It’s nice that we’ve now reached the point where I can see sales coming through regularly and that certain processes are up and running so we can implement them across all our shops, but it took a little time.
It can also be quite frustrating at times – on some occasions we’ll get donations that we might’ve been able use, but can’t sell simply due to how they were donated.
For example, I came in the other day and a pile of clothes was just sat outside the front door, but they had to go straight to rag as the rain had completely ruined them. It’s a shame because there may have been items in there that we could’ve sold otherwise.
However, I’ve also got some great stories from my time working here.
A really heart-warming story is about a volunteer that helps us out who we call, ‘Jeff the Stamp Man’ – he loves to come in and chat. Of course, he loves stamps and learning but equally he also just loves to come in and tell us about his week or the places that he’s travelled to whilst we’ll be working on the computer or sorting through donations. He’s got a great little set-up – it’s a wooden plank with tiny plant pots nailed on which he’s labelled as different countries, so that he can sort the stamps into their relevant pots ready to go in an album.
I think it’s brilliant that he’s doing something he enjoys and helping us in the process. Some albums only go for £5, but we have had a couple of books which have sold for about £200, so there are some good finds out there.
It’s lovely having volunteers that are really specific about what they enjoy doing and are good at what they do as well.
As a hospice charity shop, we’re not just supporting and helping people but we’re also doing our bit for the environment.
I know I try and shop second hand as much as I can; I also brought my boyfriend in the other day as he needed some jeans. It can be a bit disastrous coming in here as I see all these items and think ‘I need that, I like that’, but at least I know my money is going somewhere worthwhile. Most of my favourite things have been found in charity shops, even more so because they were found in a charity shop. I also feel quite chuffed knowing I’ve found something that someone else hasn’t and that I got there first!
Plus, even if an item isn’t quite how you want it in the first place, with a small change it could be exactly what you want. We have a whole rail of £10 wedding dresses and people come in and buy one just for the fabric. It’s got a train, it’s got netting and so many people come in and use it to make another item entirely. Or, if an item doesn’t quite fit, you can take it in at the sides or shorten it.
Why wouldn’t you shop second hand?
I feel like there is a new audience of people that are into thrifting, second hand shopping and shopping sustainability and I’m really keen to continue marketing this and sharing the idea that there are lots of trendy, pre-loved things you can find at a great price.”
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