Mary Queen of Shops

I watched the Mary Queen of Shops: Revisited documentary on iPlayer this morning, having missed it last week. (It’s available until the end of today, if you want to see it.)

There’s been a lot of press around Mary Portas’s ideas for revamping charity shops in the last year, and while I was aware of a lot of her work, I hadn’t actually watched any of the programs yet.

It was really good!

She’s got a very powerful personality, and what comes across best in this documentary is how well she relates to people. Making a team work is one of the most important things about managing a charity shop, and being open to the needs of your volunteers while keeping in mind the overall direction of the shop is tricky.

This documentary is an abridgement of much of the stuff in the three-part original series, with an addendum about recruiting volunteers. The first part, covering selling, donations, and re-organising a shop, is good watching.

What really got me interested, though, was the bit about volunteers. Mary did an event called V-Day last October, where people could sign up in advance to volunteer for a few hours in a charity shop. The idea was to target people who don’t or can’t usually volunteer. In our shop we have a core team of regular volunteers, most of them do set shifts, but some people do irregular shifts due to working part-time or shift work. We don’t really have people dropping in whenever they feel like it, but this is what Mary advocates playing with.

It’s something we might consider doing, if there’s enough interest, though. We like to develop good working relationships with our volunteers, but there’s also benefit to be gained from the fresh perspective of enthusiastic people who might not be able to commit to regular volunteering. Our current Oxhibition project is a great example of this, with Bethan and James from Kingston doing us a fantastic and well-conceived window display that is sure to get Oxfam a lot of attention.

So if anyone has any ideas they’d like to pitch us, now’s your chance! Or if you’re interested in doing a shift in our shop, check out our info on volunteering above, drop us a line, or just pop into the shop.

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