In conversation with Hospice leaders over the last few weeks, one of the challenges they have evidently been facing is managing the re-opening of their charity shops. This has included keeping staff, volunteers and customers safe, making significant changes to how they operate, managing the temporary shortage of volunteers and being overwhelmed with donations.
With this in mind, we held an online forum with three guest speakers:
- Angela Luger – FTSE250 Chief Executive and Non-Executive Director in mainstream retail. She is on the Board of seven retail businesses and is a NED of New Look.
- Jayne Cartwright – Owner and Founder of The Charity Retail Consultancy
- Jeremy Lune – Chief Executive of Cards for Good Causes
We invited 25 Hospice CEOs and Directors of Income Generation/Trading to collaborate and share information with like-minded people grappling with the same challenges, in a confidential environment.
It is clear that hospices are under pressure. The retail sector has never seen anything quite as impactive and challenging as COVID. Hospices are under pressure to generate the cash they need to through their shops. However, success in retailing is all about being relevant and staying relevant. Whilst that’s always been true, it is in really sharp focus now.
People are migrating online, they’re living their lives online, they’re shopping online, socialising online, across all age groups. Many will not go back to shopping in the physical world. There is also a big change in what people are buying. As we all know, COVID has been absolutely devastating for fashion and hospitality. What people continue to buy will be very different to what they would have spent their money on historically. Hospices need to react to this.
Clearly, at the moment, safety is a major concern. People are shopping more locally and avoiding transport. They’re not interested in shopping in crowds, they’re only interested in shopping with trusted brands. Playing on those relationships will be really important.
We also discussed brands which have a purpose. Values have become even more important and this plays well into the hospice sector because emotive engagement is so high right now. There has been a real refocus on community; people will engage with a local hospice much more than any other organisation and linking retail outlets to that is key. Hospices must get those messages out there. People want sustainable, people want local, and they want affordable. That’s what hospices are about.
Another important theme that came up is the move to online, e-commerce, which has been accelerated during the pandemic. Will COVID be the death of cash? This might be the final push to go completely cashless. We know online sales are up since lockdown started, so this has unlocked potential for many charities, and they will need to push that even more over the coming months.
The discussion moved to hospices and other charities collaborating together on the high street: there has never been a better time to work together. Now is the time to build communities locally. There’s a genuine spirit of collaboration, so why not cut costs and increase your impact at the same time.
But the biggest takeaway from our Forum was, without a doubt, the importance of being able to react. Charities, and particularly hospices, need to be agile and entrepreneurial. There is no room for complacency but there is room for trying new things. Reacting to customer trends is what hospices must do. As people’s habits change, hospices need to adapt to reap the benefits.
Many charity shops that reopened three weeks ago are exceeding budget. There is an appetite for what charity shops are doing, so let’s move forward with determination, creativity and focus.