A day in the life of Charity Shop Manager, Helen Sunderland

by PDSA | 2 November 2022 #Lifestyle

Animal lover, Helen, has been working as a Shop Manager in Farnworth for six years. Animal welfare is close to Helen’s heart which led her to apply for the role in charity retail.

A day in Helen’s life as a Shop Manager at PDSA

8:40 am – Helen arrives at the shop

Our shop opens at 9 am, so I aim to arrive at the shop at 8:40 am to set up for the day. I usually arrive to find one of my wonderful volunteers waiting for me with a big smile.

In the morning, we always make time for a cup of tea whilst we’re making sure the shop’s tidy for our customers - checking there are no donations that need taking into the back and refilling any areas with low stock. There is often a physical demand with this role, even before the shop opens. Some donations come in large bags and require lifting from the drop off point to the sorting room.

9 am – Open the shop

While discussing what needs to be done first, a few more volunteers arrive to begin their shift. I encourage everyone to get a brew before they start, and then by 9 am, we’re all ready to open up and welcome our lovely customers.

9.30 am – Support volunteers

During the morning, I mainly focus on ensuring our morning volunteers are busy with tasks either in the back, sorting through and steaming new donations, or out on the shop floor helping customers.

10 am – Create window displays

Whilst they’re all working hard, I like to get myself stuck into tasks that help our kerb appeal. It’s important that we keep our window looking fresh and rotate stock frequently.

One of the great things about being a shop manager is that I have creative freedom over how our shop looks and feels. I love being able to run the shop as if it’s my own.

But even during the fun tasks of redressing a mannequin, customers are still my main priority. I have to think on my feet and pause mid-task to help customers out with returning items or any questions they may have.

12.30 pm – Welcome the afternoon volunteers

The morning always flies by, and before we know it, it’s time to say goodbye to our morning volunteers and welcome in the afternoon volunteers who will be with me for the next few hours. Ideally, two volunteers are completing tasks in the back and two are working on the shop floor, but this isn’t always possible, so I step in to help out.

Being a shop manager is, of course, about running the shop and making sure our volunteers are both happy and busy with tasks, but a lot of the role is getting stuck in too.

Throughout the day, I also make sure I take some time to check my emails and do any admin. This could mean a quick phone call to a potential new volunteer who’s applied for a role- we aim to get in contact within 48 hours of their application.

1 pm – Take a lunch break

As it reaches lunchtime, I ensure there is nothing that needs doing immediately before slipping off next door to pick up a coffee and a sandwich. On days when my Assistant Manager is in, I can go a little further or take longer out of the shop, but I am the only key holder on days like today, so I can’t be gone for long.

2 pm – Create space for new stock

Between lunchtime and 4 pm, there isn’t much difference to the morning. As it quietens, one of our volunteers and I will begin removing items that have been out for a while to allow space for new stock. Another usually stays by the till helping any customers.

4 pm – Operate the till

At 4 pm our till volunteer has to leave. I am now the only till user on site, so I’ll need to spend the last hour of the day on the shop floor. At this time, the shop has usually quietened, so this is my chance to tidy the shop floor and ensure our last few customers of the day have a great shopping experience.

I enjoy chatting with our volunteers throughout the day while we are working, and now is a good time for me to talk with my afternoon helpers. I check their well-being and ask them if they’ve planned anything exciting this week. It’s a good working relationship we have. Everyone gets along well, and we all support each other. 

5 pm – Close the shop

When 5 pm arrives and the last customer has left, I’ll usually process any volunteers’ purchases through the till and thank them all for their hard work, before locking up.

No two days are the same in a charity shop, and I know tomorrow could bring a different story.

Being a Manager or Assistant Manager often means thinking on your feet and adapting your priorities at a moment’s notice - you never know what is coming through the door! Some days you’ll be super busy, and you need to focus on the shop floor; other days, you might be short-staffed or having a slower day, which means you can focus on getting admin tasks done in the office or target areas that need a little TLC. Other days you may focus on your volunteers’ training and well-being.

I always say being a Charity Shop Manager is like wearing many hats. It’s a fast-paced environment that can be challenging at times, but it’s rewarding to know you are making a difference and helping poorly pets.

For more information about Charity Shop roles visit our careers page.

Share this article on:  PDSA | 2 November 2022


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