Rachel Hewitt, head of trading at St Catherine’s Hospice, shares her top tips for finding hidden treasures and bagging bargains across the charity’s 13 shops in Preston, South Ribble and Chorley:
Charity shops are a great place to find good quality, pre-loved items, from clothes and accessories to homeware, furniture and books. Here are my top five tips for savvy shopping in St Catherine’s stores.
1) Be imaginative
It’s always fun to shop around, and bargain-hunters can get a real buzz when they find a perfect piece at our clothes stores.
It’s great to have a good rummage and find some hidden treasures, but some of our shops specialise in certain types of clothing, so it’s worth heading to specific stores if you have something particular in mind.
For example, our Penwortham boutique is full of posh, funky clothing, perfect for people looking for fancy new outfits for a night out. For anyone going on a cruise or holiday where they’d like to dress to impress, our Longridge store and Lune Street shop in Preston city centre are the places to head for cocktail dresses and formal wear. And the Ashton shop in Preston is ideal for anyone wanting a good rummage.
My advice would be to think outside of the box and be creative when putting outfits together.
Charity shops are a treasure trove of quirky clothing and accessories – from hats down to shoes – which could really make you stand out from the crowd. But they’re also great for bagging on-trend items at a fraction of the high street cost.
Fashion always comes full circle; at the minute, we have plenty of chic denim skirts on our rails which are bang on trend right now.
With a little imagination and confidence, you can come out of our shops with bags full of novelty finds and fashionable clothing to spruce up your wardrobe.
2) Get to know our volunteers
All of our shops are predominantly run by amazing, kind, committed volunteers who really know their stuff when it comes to current stock, as well as what’s going on at the hospice.
My advice? Use them! They can act as your own personal shoppers and are a really friendly bunch who love working with customers to put together amazing outfits.
For some people, the idea of trawling through rails of clothing is exciting, but for anyone short on time or for shoppers who have something particular in mind, I’d recommend making a beeline for our shop assistants for advice.
They can point you in the right direction and tell you what’s on offer during your visit, and they’ve even been known to tip off regular customers when something comes in which they think would be right up their street – so it pays off to get them on side!
3) Shop ethically
‘Ethical’ seems to be the buzzword at the minute, and it doesn’t have to mean making sacrifices. Shopping ethically in our charity stores is a good way to freshen up your wardrobe whilst also continuing to support St Catherine’s.
It’s all about recycling; just because you’ve bought a new top at one of our clothing shops doesn’t mean you can’t donate it back again once you’ve worn it a few times.
Use our shops like libraries – buying items at a bargain price before bringing them back and finding something new to add to your collection.
People know they can trust St Catherine’s at every stage of the donation process –they can count on us to really look after their pre-loved goods, and those choosing to shop with us know that we only sell good quality items.
Supporters also understand that we make the most of each donation we receive with the aim of generating the most funds possible for the charity. For example, items which we think could make a fair bit of money are saved for our online eBay shop; books are sold in most of our stores but we have a dedicated book shops in Chorley and Ashton where people can find hundreds of titles; and homeware donations go to either our furniture shops in Chorley and Leyland or our brand new St Catherine’s Superstore in Preston.
4) Find top brand clothing
Unlike some of the national charities which ‘cherry-pick’ branded clothing and send the best stuff to head office, at St Catherine’s, all types of clothing make it on to the shop floor.
That means you can find anything from Tesco to Top Shop, and M&S to Jacques Vert.
Charity shopping isn’t about bric-a-brac and knock-offs – far from it. It’s about updating your look without breaking the bank, and getting that great feeling of supporting a brilliant cause at the same time.
You may not be up for cycling 100 miles or jumping out of a plane to raise money for St Catherine’s, but by spending a few pounds in our stores, or donating items for re-sale, you’re making a valued contribution to a local charity which depends on the generosity and support of our community to generate much-needed funds.
5) Spread the word
The success of our shops relies on members of the public supporting them, and I’d really urge you to become part of that community by telling your friends and family all about the shops you’ve visited and what you discovered there.
Not only will this help get more customers through our doors and in turn, raise vital funds for the hospice – it also means that the more people who know about us, the more donations we’ll receive, and the more bargains will be on offer for you! It’s a shop-savvy cycle.
All the profits raised at our shops go towards the specialised care provided by St Catherine’s at the hospice as well as out in the community and in people’s homes.
Our aim is to help more people with life-shortening illnesses have a good quality of life and, when the time comes, comfort and dignity in death through specialised care, and support and information for patients and their loved ones.
The more awareness we can raise and the more people we can encourage to shop with us, the more people we can help at all stages of their journey.
I hope this has given you an insight into how to use our charity shops to your advantage. And if you haven’t visited any yet, please just pop in and see for yourself what we’re all about. (A full list of our stores and their locations can be found here).
We have a dedicated donation centre on site at the hospice where you can drop off any items you think someone else could make use of, or you can leave items with the assistants at any of our stores.
And remember that they’re more than just shops – they’re community hubs where people can get advice and information from our staff and volunteers about the charity itself. It’s not all about generating income, it’s also about raising awareness.
For example, hospice nurses will be using our shops as a base during Dying Matters Week from 9th May to speak to people about end-of-life care and planning ahead, giving advice about funeral arrangements, wills, and becoming organ donors.
We’re immensely proud of how our shops have become well established in their local communities, and are incredibly grateful to the people who support them – from our hard-working volunteers to our loyal customers.
We hope to see you soon – happy shopping!