Retail innovation in the age of coronavirus

Retail innovation in the age of coronavirus

Wow! What a unique three months we’ve had in our Retail team. We’ve been trialling a pack and post donation service while our charity shops remain closed due to coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions. Throughout January, February and March this year, we’ve been chipping away at the mountains of parcels sent by kind people around the UK. Here’s just a taste of what’s happened:

16,809 donated items processed and sorted, from
3,000 boxes sent to us, and
9,000 postage labels downloaded across the UK, with
8 items per box accepted for re-sale!

That response has been far bigger than we could have hoped, with the boxes here at King’s Cross almost blocking out the sunlight from the windows at one mid-way point.

Piles upon piles of parcels that we've been sent
Piles of parcels in our Kings Cross boutique

Setting up our online shop

After sifting each box’s contents into relevant product categories, we clean and steam, photograph, catalogue, transfer and write a description of each. We upload this to our Shopify site and also link to eBay. We’ve sold thousands of items so far and the figure keeps on growing!

A selection of clothes we've been donated

The best treasures to date include a Jean Paul Gaultier navy suit with gold lining, a Jimmy Choo handbag (thanks, Aaron in Horsforth) and a Tiffany bracelet. Each of these sold for over £100 each. Our top seller so far was a leather Belstaff jacket, raising a massive £269.99 in one sale by Joe in Wimbledon. We’ve also received some beautiful handwritten messages in parcels. It’s clear that our donors are genuinely passionate about helping the growing number of people facing homelessness in these especially difficult times – people like Malak and her daughter.

A handwritten note from a parcel we received, which reads 'Most of this clothing is barely worn... I hope they are of value to Shelter. Better than sitting never to be worn in my wardrobe.'

Once we’ve sold an item, we process it and wrap in eco-friendly packaging, before taking it to the Post Office. We’ve become more and more inventive with our delivery methods as donations increased during lockdown. At one point, we even trialled our own bike trolley system!

Future expansion plans

Now, we’re looking to the future after the success of our online shop launch. We’re planning an exciting expansion of our Reuse, Restore, Rehome site, and want to make it an essential, integrated part of our retail operations at Shelter. Closing our bricks and mortar stores has forced us innovate with our fundraising, which is never a bad thing! And we look forward to bringing you more updates as our plans progress.

In the meantime, we’ve still got loads of amazing goodies on offer, so check out our online shop now to snag yourself a bargain! Help us put injustice out of fashion one online sale at a time.