Tina, our Crawley Shop Manager, has been a crucial part of our team since she joined our hospice in March 2020. Supporting not only our Trading operations but also working in the hospice during the pandemic, Tina comments on the benefits – as well as some of the hardships – of working for a charity and what a typical day may look like for her.
“I started at St Catherine’s on the 3rd of March. I’ve worked in charity before, at the YMCA store on the corner along from the Crawley store. I enjoyed it; it was great to give back. Then I worked at Primark – it was just a stop gap, and I was only meant to be there for six months, but four years later… Eventually I got to the point where I felt like I needed to move on.
Unfortunately, as I joined just before the first lockdown, I missed the furlough deadline but was asked to help out in the hospice as a screener. I helped with doing the testing and sorting the PPE for visitors.
I also helped the Housekeeping team to keep the our offices clean for the community nurses. It was great as I got to see how the hospice works (albeit in a pandemic) and I got to know all the nurses who will sometimes pop in and say hello. It’s like one big family.
There’s definitely a difference
This job is far less stressful. In Primark you had to constantly be getting clothes out, checking that there was enough stock and making sure the orders were right. I used to do the t-shirts and the denim and if the clothes didn’t come in in the right sizes, customers would complain. I prefer it in here because it’s not as fast paced, and I’m left to my own devices so I can just get on with the job.
The customers are different too: you get to know your regulars and they’ll always come in, say hello and make small talk. The customers are friendlier and very seldom complain.
I tend to keep the prices low
You’ll find quite a few people here will go around all the shops. We get some that come in daily, and they’ll always be on the lookout for bargains. We try not to charge much in comparison to other places – particularly after lockdown because a lot of people were made redundant or were on furlough.
With the other shops, they tend to keep the items out for two weeks. I always keep things out for a month, and then if it’s still not sold, I’ll reduce it to £1. A lot of people go down the £1 baskets and use the material to make things, like one lady who makes dolls clothes out of them – it’s really sweet.
Occasionally we’ll get some really nice quality items in; I’ll do a little research to work out what a suitable price point is and then they’ll usually sell within a couple of days. It’s why I hate turning away donations as you just never know what you’re going to get.
A typical day would be…
Sorting donations, pricing the donations and then getting everything out on the shop floor. It does get really busy in here; you’ll go out with something and notice that you can’t go round in certain places as there’s so many people.
We’ve got quite a large area which means we can offer more than some of the other shops are able to, like children’s clothes and toys, linen and curtains and we’ve started doing small furniture upstairs too. That’s another thing – we’ve got a nice craft section. We get quite a lot of crafters come in and buy things. We have a unit full of wool, handmade cards that people have donated, stamps, punches, knitting patterns, buttons. It all goes quite quickly. It’s not something that people expect to find, but once people know that it’s there, they’ll come in just to browse.
Because Crawley is where the hospice is, our presence is more known
We get a lot of people here who have a connection to the hospice – it’s local and many people have directly dealt with the hospice, be it staff members or people that have used the services.
A lot of the people who donate bring in items belonging to someone that has passed under the care of our hospice.
It’s nice for us and I think it’s quite nice for them as they know that the items they’ve donated will be sold and all the money raised will go towards the hospice. Especially if they’re Gift Aid, they can see how much money has been raised through their donations.
It’s quite a compassionate job
Quite often they’ll bring it down bit by bit and sometimes they’ll get upset, particularly if it’s their partner.”
Jill, one of our volunteers in the Crawley shop agrees. “On a number of occasions someone has brought donations to us, and their partner only passed three or four weeks ago and they just want to talk. So, we’ll stand and talk to them – listen to them.
That’s part of the job here. You have to give them the time as they want to tell you what happened and how they’re struggling.
It can be really quite sad and some of us have lost someone close to us, so we can sympathise. You know exactly how they feel, but it’s lovely here because no one will come up to you and disrupt that conversation. Everyone seems to understand when a customer wants to talk, and you know you’ll never get told off as you’re actually helping. It helps to talk.”