On a very cold and damp Friday Morning I was collected by the lovely Angie in her Shaw Trust Van.  She expertly reversed up to my garage door (narrowly missing my shopping delivery guy) and, as has become a bit of a habit, we loaded her van with pre-loved items, including clothing, paintings, electricals etc. These had been collected from clients who are beginning to understand the art of letting go and realising that their ‘tat’ really can be another man’s treasure.

Angie was taking me with her on the delivery run to their favourite shop in Wantage, which specialises in vintage items.    When we arrived, I was introduced to, Lorraine Adler who has been the manager at this store for four years. Lorraine and her assistant manager Karen rely on volunteer workers to keep it fully staffed 7 days a week.

 

The Trust feel very fortunate having Lorraine working for them, as she has the vision and flair for a Vintage shop, which is supported by both management; staff and volunteers who all work within the Shaw Trust policies.

I was amazed to see how busy the shop was on a Friday lunchtime, especially as there are three other charity shops in the market square.  However, I was soon to find out why, it is a result of all the care and unique touches that were part of the shops distinctive character.  It was clear to see that over the past few years, Lorraine and the team have taken the shop to the next level,

Some time ago, Lorraine owned her own ‘vintage boutique’, which she sadly had to close down.  After a few other posts, she took this new position with Shaw Trust and has managed to replicate a lot of the quirkiness that she embraced in her own store.  Hopefully I’ve captured this in the photos I’ve taken.

There are some fantastic touches, like a fancy dress kangaroo, cool dummies daubed in paint, many uniquely dressed up with cool shades.  All things that give it an almost eccentric yet brilliant individuality, like delving into the depths of an eclectic emporium.

I was never sure what I should be donating to charity shops (on my customers’ behalf). Was it too old, too distressed, are electrical / gaming items OK, what about gold, silver and collectors’ items?  I needn’t have worried, as I soon learnt that nothing goes to waste, and Lorraine has made sure there is a way for everything to benefit the charity.

Electrical items are assessed for health and safety and if they are not of saleable value, someone pays her to take them away. If clothes are not in a desirable condition, she makes sure the charity gets paid (by weight) for unused fabrics.  There are even valuers on hand for art, jewellery and collectables.

Seemingly, every possible source of revenue is extracted from donated items, including the introduction of reclamation of gift aid for the charity. 

Lorraine has certainly been able to carve a niche for the store having become widely recognised amongst young and old as ‘THE’ place to go for fancy dress and retro, vintage and quirky pieces whether for interiors or attire.  It is evident why when you look around.

Lorraine’s imagination and own hand has had such an effect on how the store looks. Not just with the crazy painted heads but with Anne (another volunteer) posing in the window as a mannequin with a book and a cup of tea, waving at people to draw them in. Quite brilliant!

 

 

Thanks to Lorraine’s quirkiness, welcoming nature and excellent people management skills, the shop has become so popular, that she now has a waiting list of volunteers who want to come and work for her.

I learnt so much while I was there, including how items are sorted and either stored until the appropriate season, or put out immediately with tracking for gift aid and ‘expiry dates’.  Each item is displayed for approximately 2-3 weeks and then either rotated through other shops or recycled.

Lorraine has managed to attract a much younger customer base than your average charity shop, who either buy because of the unusual nature of some of the items or to up-cycle / re-style. She has also managed to attract a larger male customer base than you would normally see.

I am in awe – every Shaw Trust Shop has its own ‘quirk’ or speciality and if they are all run as spectacularly as this one, I highly recommend seeking them out wherever you are.

If you’d like to find out more about The Shaw Trust Charity, just click on this link https://www.shawtrust.org.uk/