Volunteering in a Charity Shop

As some of you may already know, about 18 months ago I became a volunteer at a local charity shop. My reason for doing this is that I work from home and, although I love what I do, I miss the day to day contact with other people and the comradery that comes naturally with being part of a workforce. I have found the job very enjoyable and have learnt a lot from it so thought this insight might be helpful to anyone who is thinking of volunteering or is simply interested in the inner workings of a charity shop.

When I started working there my main tasks were to tidy the shop, make sure that all the clothes were hung correctly and were colour coordinated, bag items up for customers, etc. After a few shifts, I was given access to the till and became a fully-fledged member of staff.

There are many different tasks that need to be done in order to maintain the smooth running of the shop, so it never gets boring. Aside from serving customers and keeping the shop tidy, behind the scenes we sort through the donations, price items, clean stock if necessary, organise window displays, complete our paperwork and so on… there is always something to do!

It never ceases to amaze me what people will donate. We are located in a very affluent area and get our fair share of brand new items from designers such as Louis Vuitton, Diane von Furstenberg or Prada. Some of these brands donate their seconds, or clothes that have been used for modelling shoots directly to us.

Occasionally we get fake items which we cannot sell; these are relegated to a textile recycling company, a representative of which visits us once a week to take away our unwanted items. These also include items that are unsaleable, such as stained clothing, dirty cuddly toys or odd socks. As we are in an affluent area, we don’t sell very many ‘high street’ brands unless they are in new condition and from the more expensive end of the high street. Absolutely no ‘New Look’ or ‘Next’ items are kept – we transfer these items to other branches.

We also get items that we have to dispose of which can be a little bit frustrating as it costs the shop money (roughly £2.50 per full bin liner). People mean well when they donate these items, but we really can’t do anything with broken mugs or used dish draining racks, for example.

The volunteers in our shop come from a variety of backgrounds and bring different skills with them. Some are very artistic, which is brilliant for displays and dressing mannequins. Others are great with people which makes for increased sales figures. Whilst we have a few long term volunteers, the majority work for a few weeks until they find paid employment. Most people work 1-2 days a week, but some do 2 hours, others 5 days – it just depends on the individual’s circumstances.

Are you a volunteer? Do have any experience working for a charity shop or any other kind of volunteering? If so, I would love to hear about your experiences – leave a comment below!





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