Annual General Meeting of the Charity Retail Association

We were excited to hold our Annual General Meeting yesterday at our offices in Holloway Road.

Our Chair, Anne Webb, introduced the designer, Wayne Hemingway, who delivered an insightful and inspiring presentation on the subject of the place of charity shops in society. He passionately spoke of his personal history and how he became the designer he is today. ‘Improving things that matter in life’ is Wayne’s mantra, and he passionately discussed his vision for changing perceptions of charity shops. One of his latest projects was helping to develop the new ‘boutique’ style Shelter charity shop in Coal Drops Yard at Kings Cross. The store is a modern concept – taking an holistic approach to charity retailing. It incorporates sustainability, recycling and upcycling in the interior design; creatively constructed by Wayne. The store manager, Hattie Lamb, also joined us to explain the way in which they are collaboratively trying to push the boundaries and change consumers’ perceptions of the traditional ‘charity shop’. She has instigated a successful Instagram campaign #styleforshelter, promoting second-hand treasures, attracting bloggers and influencers.

Following the official AGM matters, we had a review of the year from our Chief Executive Robin Osterley, giving an update of the current situation of the Charity Retail sector. Robin then introduced Dermot McGilloway, Director of Retail Services from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP), who gave an incredibly moving and heart-felt presentation about the positive social impact on the community – specifically in Ireland. He spoke about the difficulties that a lot of families face and gave some startling statistics of the number of people living below the bread line. Dermot explained the way in which SVP isn’t ‘just’ a charity shop – but a service provider – acting as a centre for the community and the importance of SVP in people’s lives.

In the afternoon session our Head of Public Affairs, Jonathan Mail, updated us on the progress of the TRUST certification project, along with Dawn Dungate, Operations Manager of East London Textiles. The certification is a ‘seal of approval’ style award, gained by recycling merchants who operate to a high standard. Dawn passionately conveyed the value of the TRUST scheme from a recycling merchants’ point of view, and the confidence that it will instil in retailers when selecting a partner.  

The panel session rounded off the AGM, on the subject of town centre engagement. Sitting on the panel, was Tracey Robbins, UK Delivery Manager of the Eden Project, David Cryer, Deputy MD of Shelter, and Dan Corns, Commercial Director of St. Richard’s Hospice. The panel discussed reaching out to the community, embracing sustainability and taking an holistic approach to charity retailing. They spoke of the human connection that charity shops and the people within them provide, enabling people to form relationships with others, by bringing neighbourhoods and communities together. The consensus of the panel, was that charity shops are the future of the High Street, in more ways than commercially.

The AGM was one of the most successful to date. One of the key reasons for this, was the enthusiasm, ideas and proactivity that the attendees bought to the table. Thank you to those who joined us.