Managing a charity shop has a reputation for being a somewhat sedate job – but in reality the role carries more than enough responsibility, says Heather Bull.
The 22-year-old is among the youngest charity shop bosses in Sheffield, and is working hard to bring in a new customer base at her branch of Age UK, in Crookes.
Heather and her assistant Laura Morley are filling the rails with more items of clothing carrying the all-important ‘vintage’ cachet, as well as selling a greater number of vinyl records to appeal to students and young people living locally.
Their efforts have proved successful so far, with plenty of customers appreciating the shop’s new direction.
“I think there’s an idea that people think it’s a boring job, and that you just sit and drink tea, but actually there’s lots to be done,” said Heather
“If you want to grow a shop you need to find the right area to do it in. It’s just about trying to find that niche.”
Heather took over the shop last year, and as well as Laura she is helped by Sunday assistant Olivia Smith and a group of 18 volunteers, some of whom have been on the books for up to 25 years.
She volunteered for charity while growing up in Derby and then while studying at Sheffield Hallam University she worked as a shop assistant for Cancer Research UK.
“I enjoy the community element of it,” said Heather, who graduated last year with a degree in graphic design.
“You get to meet a lot of nice people working for the right reasons and raising money for a good cause at the same time.”
She added: “When I took it over there was the opportunity to give it a fresh start and the challenge of trying to pull it back up and meet its targets. I started as an assistant manager but was quickly asked to step up.
It was make or break time. There was a lot of work to be done, but I do think we’re on the right track and we’ve made a big improvement.”
Staff have been keeping a close eye on donations for clothes from the 1960s and 70s, particularly women’s dresses with a particularly retro look. “We do get a lot of nice 60s and 70s stuff and a lot of the dresses seem to go down well,” said Heather.
“We’re still relying on what people have got, but we do get a lot of donations from house clearances so we’re not struggling.” The shop is also mindful of the increasingly popularity of vinyl records, which have made an unexpected comeback among a younger demographic.
“We’ve been trying to make it appeal to students as well as the local community,” Heather explained. “We’re quite close to Broomhill where a lot of students live as well, but we have a lot of regular customers so we have to try and fulfil their needs as well.
“People like to shop for vintage items because everything has its own bit of character – like a piece of history – and it’s a bit more interesting than mass-produced stuff. You can wear something that nobody else is going to have. It’s a good way of recycling, too.”
The services offered by Age UK also make the job worthwhile, she added. “They’re very good on what they give back. They have a lot of advice lines and services for older people and are very good at providing information.’’