“Everything we do is going towards those we care for in our hospice.”
Dawn has been a part of our Trading Team for almost nine years. Now, as our Redhill Shop Manager, she shares why she loves her job and some of the experiences that she’s had during her time with St Catherine’s.
“I started in the Caterham store as an assistant and then I had the great opportunity a couple of years later to be the manager there.
After that, a challenge came up of running the two shops in Redhill.
I put myself forward and, luckily, I got chosen. It was very challenging, but I quite enjoyed it. Eventually, the other store closed and now we just have the one.
It’s a busy little shop.
The town can get busy. We’re quite close to the bus station, and the train station is opposite, which means the footfall here is good as people have to go past us to get into town.
We’ve also recently had half term and I’ve noticed that either during, or just after half terms, we’ll get a surge of donations. If people haven’t gone away, they’re often at home sorting.
I try to control the donations.
I obviously have to think of the safety of my colleagues, my volunteers and myself – we can only take so many items or else we’ll never catch up. We don’t like turning people down, and there will be people who are unhappy that we can’t take their donation, but we try to explain that it will only be for a couple of days to allow us to catch up. Most people do understand.
When we were in the pandemic, there was a really good campaign that encouraged people to call and check before they brought donations in.
I really appreciated that as we could let people know when we weren’t accepting certain items before they brought them in.
I endeavor to maintain high standards.
You can’t just put out what you like – you have to think of what will sell. We get a lot of youngsters in here as the college is up the road.
They often come in for our fantastic camera section, which has been in Redhill for up to fifteen years.
I’ve got a volunteer called Dave who is quite very knowledgeable about cameras, and he looks after that section for me.
We often get comments about how nice the things are in our store. I want customers to come in and say, ‘this is a nice shop to be in, to shop in, the atmosphere is great.’
This shop is nice and bright, and I’ve had loads of nice comments since I revamped it.
We used to have furniture in here, but we recently took the furniture out. It just wasn’t selling anymore.
We have put three more rails in the space enabling us to increase our clothing space, which has seen a positive uplift in sales. People now spend more time here because they’ve got more to look at.
In my view, all of our shops are different.
We’re all in different areas, we have different clientele, and you have to focus on what sells in your shop.
You couldn’t have a shop that’s identical.
Each manager has their own style and their own way of working. We are all completely different and we all do a great job – especially our volunteers.
Even though I haven’t got the most volunteers around me, I feel I’ve got the best.
I’ve taken on three volunteers. Joe has actually worked for the company for the same length of time as me, so nine to ten years, but mostly as a hospice driver, that was pre-pandemic and when it stopped, poor Joe was twiddling his thumbs. He and I met at a Christmas event in Caterham. We got chatting and he always used to come and see me in the Caterham shop, and that’s when our friendship started.
It just felt right – he used to walk past here and say hello, so I eventually said, ‘why don’t you come and volunteer in the shop?’. It’s completely different to driving, he’s been with us since November and is a real asset.
I’ve got fantastic volunteers. We get on really well and I really appreciate them all. It’s not the biggest team but it certainly does work. They know exactly what they’re doing and they’re always there to help. I don’t think it matters how many volunteers you’ve got; I think it’s the way that we work together.
It always amazes me what stuff comes in here;
The quality of items, items with tags still on. Just before Christmas I had a batch of really, really gorgeous jewellery. It was a whole bag of bits, and every single item was Edwardian gold. It’s more of a rosy colour, and not as yellow as our modern gold.
Darren, a volunteer that supports our eBay operation at the warehouse, priced that all up for me as that’s his specialism – I sold a bracelet for £230, and a beautiful necklace for £175! It amazes me what people give to the charity; I think the majority of people who donate, or shop here, have the cause close to their hearts.
I’m very, very passionate about my job.
I think this has maybe been the best job I’ve ever had – I wish I’d found it earlier.
I absolutely love it, I really do.
I lost my dad to cancer, so I feel I’ve got that empathy. I know how hard the nurses work, how hard the hospice works. Everything we do is going towards those we care for in our hospice. I’ve been there, and if we can make others smile in their last days, then that’s just lovely.”