We were lucky enough to be invited to the charity’s e-commerce operation in Balham on Friday 6th March to have a sneaky peek at what goes on behind the scenes. The e-commerce Manager, Veronica, gave us a whistle-stop tour of their facility and introduced her incredible staff and volunteers. All with their own specialties, Veronica commended the calibre of her team and how they complement each other to ensure the smooth running of the operation.
Royal Trinity Hospice run 32 very successful bricks-and-mortar stores across London and are rapidly expanding into the online retail arena. Shoppers’ habits are changing and retailers must evolve to reflect it. “We want to engage a younger audience, and selling online is a great way of doing so”, said Veronica, “We’ve got to be in it to win it”.
At the Charity Retail Association we often bandy about the phrase ‘pushing the boundaries of charity retail’, but Veronica and the team are doing just this, selling items 24/7 with their digital shop window in 4 formats: the retailer’s own website, Gumtree, eBay and Amazon. They act as resellers – selling anything that can’t be sold in store, or specialist or bulky items that aren’t suited to charity shops, such as antiques or fitness equipment.
We sat in the warm, friendly office, with overflowing boxes of pre-loved treasures and unique antiques and discussed some of the issues that are close to the team’s heart. Sustainability and helping the environment are top of the list. The operation is aiming to be as close to 100% sustainable as possible, forgoing plastic bubble wrap for recycled cardboard padding and reusing old packaging rather than purchasing new cardboard boxes. The mountain of cereal boxes and second-hand packaging boxes demonstrates that there is indeed a box for any shaped parcel!
As we wondered round the warehouse it was clear that the team go the extra mile to extend the ‘thanks’ to the Royal Trinity Hospice online shopping experience and add the personal touch. Each item is lovingly hand-wrapped in recycled paper and stickered with ‘thank you’ notes. Veronica explained that they do this to try and recreate the personal thanks that would be given in Trinity’s stores.
Another testament to Veronica’s dedication and hard work is the 100% positive feedback on eBay. They are a ‘Top Rated’ seller, and the subject of the quirky recycled packaging appears again and again in the reviews. Royal Trinity Hospice are active users of Instagram and Twitter, adopting a stylistic, fashionista feel. This is a great example of a sustainable business using e-commerce to reach new audiences, and continue the charity retail experience. Many thanks to Veronica and team for having us!