“I’ve loved every minute of it and wouldn’t change a single thing.”

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Leanne joined our Trading team in early September as our Haywards Heath Shop Manager. Here, she shares her experience of working in the St Catherine’s store and some of the successes (and struggles) that she’s had so far.

“I started at St Catherine’s through my mum – she’s a Retail Operations Assistant who has worked with the company for two years. I used to pick her up and drop her off at work so I would often stand in the shop for half an hour and I just remember thinking to myself, ‘I could do this.’

I’ve worked in retail before.

I acted as a Shop Manager at the Co-Op for about 8 months and after that, I worked as a Store Manager for several different Card Factory shops, as well as helping out the Area Manager. I was also an Assistant Manager at Clarks shoe shop before I left retail altogether to work as a Transport Manager for a coach company.

I still work there part time now and I love the job, but it’s not been the same since COVID hit – I was bored and it’s an office based job so I just felt sluggish and tired all the time. I knew I had to do something.

I said to my mum as a joke one time ‘let me know if a position comes up within St Catherine’s’. I think it was only about four weeks later that she said a job was available.

It’s completely different working for a charity.

Here, you’re valid. Gary – our Head of Trading – sends out regular emails with recognition for shops and individuals that have done well that week. When you work anywhere else, you do your job, but you won’t be told ‘well done’ and sometimes that’s all you need; it gives you that oomph to carry on. Otherwise, after a while, you begin to question if you’re doing things right or to their standards.

The other difference is the training. Although it’s tiring and very full on, you get so much information. You learn so much and I know there is so much more to learn and that makes me really excited.

Even if some of the training isn’t 100% relevant to my side of the work (E.G clinical), it’s still really interesting and it’s brilliant to have an understanding of how the other teams work. I loved being able to hear and see what other staff have to do, and at the end of the day it all comes back to St Catherine’s.

There’s also a difference in the customers.

They don’t tend to complain or worry if there’s a little queue. They’re really laid back and they enjoy coming in not just to shop but also to chat.

We have some regulars who are really lovely; there’s one gentleman who comes in multiple times a day to speak to us and see if there’s anything new. I’ve never had any issues with any of our customers.

When you work in a big environment, like a chain, you don’t get the chance to know people or build a relationship with them as there are just too many. Plus, you’re so busy that there’s no chance for small talk in the same way.

I love my volunteers – they’re amazing.

They’ll do anything for me. I like to have a chat with them and to find out about their lives and I try to always make sure that I’ve got time to do that, as well as spending time with my customers. I’m so fortunate that I’ve got several fantastic volunteers who help out for a few hours on different days of the week, but on Fridays and Saturdays I’m currently on my own. Even though it’s difficult, I do go home with a real sense of achievement that I still got everything done.

We get so many donations.

With clothes we always look for the best quality items – if they’re bobbling, stained, ripped or have holes then we won’t put them out on the shop floor. CDs and DVDs are always checked to make sure that they aren’t scratched. We make sure that everything is in a sellable condition.

Currently I’m short on volunteers so I need to have a system that allows me to work even when I’m on my own.

For example, all my hangers are organised into size order because I don’t want to spend lots of time out the back looking for a hanger when I need to be out on the shop floor. I also make sure that all donations are priced as soon as they come in – this means that I’ve already sorted them, I know they’re sellable and I can just grab a handful when I need to put more out.

It is hard work and I do go home tired most nights, but it really is enjoyable.

Every day is busy – even on days where we don’t get given many donations, the shop floor might be really busy, or I’ll have lots of previous donations to sort through.

I remember one day I was hoovering and cleaning ready to close as no one was in the shop near the end of the day, and then a lady walked in and started stacking items on my till.

She left with two massive shopping bags whilst another lady came in and started shopping. She also left with her arms near enough full. In my last ten minutes of trading, I took over £100!

It’s been so full on, it’s been amazing – really great. I’ve loved every minute of it and wouldn’t change a single thing.

St Catherine’s is an amazing charity.

Fortunately, I’ve never had to deal with palliative care as none of my family have had to have it, aside from my nan who was looked after by Macmillan for a couple of days.

I am still learning lots of things that St Catherine’s do and it still amazes me to this day the lengths that the team will go to. I know that my mum has said she’s never worked for a better company.

If I ever end up in palliative care, I hope it’s at St Catherine’s. I mean, how many other charities can say they have a drinks trolley!”

If you’re looking to support out hospice, shop more sustainably, or just want to bag a bargain, check out our charity shops!