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Charity retail in a post-pandemic world

Harry packages online sales itemsHello there. My name’s Harry and I have been working in the Brandon retail department for almost five years. I started out as assistant shop manager at the Whiteladies Road shop, before making the move to shop manager at our Gloucester Road store.

A real buzz

I’ve had lots of experience working in bricks and mortar charity retailing, and have always loved sorting through the amazing donations. The most exciting thing is when we identify something extra special; a designer handbag, a rare book, antique jewellery, or a piece of brand-new tech.

There’s a real buzz that comes with finding a rare and valuable object which you know will help raise big money for the charity.

Developing an eye for special objects

With experience, you start to develop an eye for these special objects, and you start to realise that these items do not always achieve their worth in a shop that is only visited by a certain number of people each day.

We realised that to make sure these items find their way to the right home at the best price, was to start selling online. This had been tried before but was more of an add-on to the shops and was difficult to maintain. The online shop needed a dedicated team to source, research, prepare, list, package and post the items.

When the third lockdown hit in January 2021, our physical shops had to close. I started working with one of the other shop managers, to sell items on eBay. It was immediately successful, with some big sales of specialist items that would have been very hard to achieve in the shops.

Honing the operation

We spent the next three months honing the operation and looking at different ways to make online sales work. We also opened a Depop shop specifically for selling clothing, and this was also a success.

In September 2021, I left my job as shop manager and took on the position of online sales manager. We converted the storage area above one of our shops into our online sales office. With the help of our shop managers, we started filling it with unique and interesting objects that needed to be seen by a larger audience.

Big-ticket items

Voightlander cameraThese were often big-ticket items, but they weren’t always high value items. Some had failed to sell in the shops, or were items that were so specialist that they just needed to be seen by the right person.

I found that the online shops also act as a great way of recycling items which we are unable to sell in our high street shops. In fact, it has been a real eye opener, discovering which items sell well. We’ve sold everything from archaic mobile phones, to empty film canisters, to broken laptops.

Recycling ethos

Recycling is key to our ethos. I hate seeing things go to waste!

At this point, 95% of our packaging materials are either recycled or recyclable. I almost always use bags and paper from items donated to the shop, to package items. We also have some kind donors, including Gloucester Road post office, who keep us in bubble wrap and cardboard boxes. I love thinking of new and creative ways to package things using materials that would otherwise be thrown away.

That brings me to where we are now. We currently have three online sales outlets; eBay, Depop, and Vinted, and we’ll soon be opening an online record and music shop on Discogs.

Creating job opportunities

Dr Martens bootsAll the online shops are making great strides. There seems to be a clear divide as to what sells well on which platform. We learn something new every day. It’s an ever evolving process that keeps us on our toes and enthusiastic about what we are doing.

Sales have grown to the point where we’ll soon be employing three supported employees to help, creating valuable paid opportunities for people with learning disabilities supported by Brandon.

I’m excited about the future and how our online sales team will grow. I love having a job which maximises donations for the charity, recycles items in new ways, and provides opportunities for the people we support. It makes me very proud to do what I do.

Harry Wareham 
Online Sales Manager

Visit our online stores

If you’re looking for something rare or special, or are simply curious about what we have for sale, please check out our online shops. We hope you enjoy browsing the interesting items on offer.