Sam Williamson manages our Reigate shop. Here, she shares an update on how our shops have made changes to keep customers safe, and what it’s been like working on the High Street in this ‘new’ normal.
“So much has changed in retail since lockdown began. Even more has changed for myself as pre lockdown I was managing our Dorking shop, and about to transfer to our Reigate shop in April. Due to COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown the original planned dates changed for me.
During lockdown it was important for me to keep in touch regularly with our volunteers
Each week I would either text or call our 42 amazing volunteers to check that they were all okay. It was a wonderful way for me to get to know all the volunteers from Reigate. Most of them I’d never met before but I soon felt like I’d known them for years. That’s right, 42 volunteers contribute their time and love to our Reigate and Dorking shops! How amazing is that?
I was officially furloughed from 1 April and was on furlough for a few months before I took up my position at our Reigate shop in July, opening to the brilliant people of Reigate on Saturday 25 July.
You may be wondering what has changed for us in retail?
When entering our shops we now have numerous new signs for customer information. The signs tell customers how many people we can have in the shop safely at any one time, remind people to wear face masks, and to use the provided sanitiser station at the door. Also, we now have an hourly clean down in all of our shops, and at the end of the day we do a more thorough clean in all areas.
I’m lucky enough to have one of our amazing volunteers, Maureen, who can’t physically volunteer at the moment, still support us by making face masks for us to sell
These are a bargain at £4.50, and have been flying off the shelf! Sales of these wonderful face masks have already raised more than £500 for our hospice, and if you, or someone you know, want to keep yourself safe, whilst supporting our hospice, make sure you pop in and visit us in Reigate and buy a few. The masks have proved so popular they’re now also available in our Dorking, Redhill and Oxted shops too if they’re nearer for you.
The first few days of being open again were a little frustrating as customers were coming in with their donations and I wasn’t allowed to touch them
Why? Because of the new 72 hour quarantine we’ve got in place for all donations. I know it’s there to keep us safe, but unless you’ve worked in charity retail, you might not understand the feeling of seeing bags of lovely donations just sitting in the pen, and not being able to sort through them and get items out on the shop floor to maximise sales.
To begin with, customers didn’t understand why we couldn’t give them their bags back or look out a particular item, which they’d placed at the bottom of the bag, when they wanted to discuss why they were donating it. Also, pre lockdown, I very rarely refused to take people’s donations so doing this has been new for me. Having to turn away donations is now becoming the norm, because we don’t have much storage space and once our donation pen is full, we can no longer take in anymore donations for that day. That doesn’t mean we’re not incredibly grateful to people for thinking of St Catherine’s though.
My new suggestion to our customers is asking them to bring their donations into us before midday for a better chance of us being able to accept them, or asking them to ring ahead to our shop to check whether we can accept their donation to avoid disappointment and any wasted journies.
Reigate customers, on a whole are great, and understand the new normal for retail – not just us but everyone on the High Street
The majority of people put their masks on and sanitise their hands, although some do need a gentle reminder from time to time!
Now all we need is the public to have the confidence to shop
High Streets were struggling all over the country before this pandemic and now things are even harder for us all. You can help us by making sure that all your friends and family in Surrey and Sussex are aware we’re open again for business. Let them know that they can come in to any of our amazing shops, feel confident and safe, and hopefully find that bargain they never knew was waiting for them!”
To find your nearest St Catherine’s shop and for details to call ahead regarding donations please click here