For charities, their retail shops are an essential revenue and donation stream. Due to an increasingly competitive marketplace, the last ten years has seen a movement away from the traditional charity shop concept, with management rethinking their entire approach to retailing. Previously, any type of financial investment that was needed for the stores was seen as taking money away from the cause. However, changing mind-sets have seen management within this sector adopt a more professional and commercial approach by implementing new technologies, expanding their product offering, and adopting an approach that traditionally, was reserved for the private, rather than non-profit retail sector.
Established in 2009, Mary’s Living & Giving Shop for Save the Children is a philosophy gifted to Save the Children by retail expert, Mary Portas. Mary wanted to revolutionise the way charity shops were perceived, as well as to create an outlet for premium brands and retailers to dispose of excess stock without damaging the value of their brand.
So, at a time when charity salaries and expenditure were under the media spotlight, and charity stakeholders were questioning donors’ financial return on investment (should the charity spend money on a store refit or feed a family of four for a month?), Mary was encouraging Save the Children to adopt a more mainstream retail ethos, by financially investing in retail design, customer service, and visual merchandising.
By employing the principles of retailing into an environment where traditionally customer expectations and average selling prices are not very high, Mary and Save the Children created a retail space that complimented the selling of premium brands, as well as encouraged a new type of audience (consumer, donor, and volunteer).
With currently twenty-two shops in and around London and one shop in Edinburgh, the majority of these shops contribute more than three times the average weekly earnings per shop than that of the average UK charity retail sector. This case study looks at the key factors involved in successfully creating this revolutionary premium charity retail concept.