Saint Francis Hospice: ‘Closing charity shops for 90 days significantly affected funding’

Michelle Nicholls says the charity shops are reopening with new safety measures. Picture: Saint Fran

Michelle Nicholls says the charity shops are reopening with new safety measures. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Archant

Lockdown hit Saint Francis Hospice’s charity shops hard. Director of retail and trading Michelle Nicholls explains how they are re-opening

Covid-19 has completely changed the way we shop. We’re now limited to how many customers we can allow in a Saint Francis Hospice charity retail store at any one time.

Pre-lockdown, our 16 stores were buzzing with people looking to support our charity and bag a bargain in the process. Now our customers are still with us, but in a slower and safer way.

We’ve received the most heartfelt letters from customers, thanking us for returning. It seems that so many people missed our staff and the fantastic work our volunteers do — and we’ve missed you too!

The support for our stores has been overwhelming, but we now need you like never before. The government only provides 23per cent of our hospice’s total running costs, and we need to find £23,000 every day in voluntary fundraising to survive.

Closing our shops for 90 days has significantly affected our funding, and we’re only now re-emerging. We’ve launched some great offers within our shops that will hopefully make up for some of the lost revenue.

During the lockdown, we had to make changes to our stores. We’ve fitted 7ft sneeze barriers between us and our incredible supporters, which has been challenging.

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We’ve also had to suspend our delivery and collections of goods, plus our house clearance offer.

We’ve rearranged stores so that shoppers can social distance but still enjoy retail therapy. This is the total opposite of how charity shops usually run, where you can rummage and spend time finding a bargain.

Charities are good at being business agile, and that’s what we need to be.

When the lockdown was announced, our Harold Hill furniture store turned into a donation station overnight. I’m rather excited to announce that in a couple of weeks, we’re opening our first Christmas pop-up shop in Harold Hill.

We are also selling online like never before. Our ecommerce team has worked nonstop since we returned, and you can browse our eBay listings here.

Our Romford, Harold Hill, and Wanstead general stores are now fully functioning again for customers. They’re open from 10am to 4pm.

Our warehouse at Ashton Gate, Harold Hill, is serving as a donation station. You can drop off your goods on Monday between 10am and 4pm. All stock will be quarantined for 72 hours before it’s sorted and sold.

Our hospice relies on the goodwill of volunteers, but we’re not planning to bring them back straight away. Their absence has been challenging as staff depended so heavily on their experience, kindness and friendliness. We miss you all too!

Just a reminder to everyone that any donations left outside any of our stores will sadly go to waste.

We look forward to welcoming you all back again as you shop for pre-loved goods in the run-up to Christmas.