When Sue Ryder established her Foundation in England in 1953, she had a plan waiting to finance this venture based on the charity shops. She knew that the mission she was undertaking would require huge funds. The first charity shop was established in London in the 1950s. The idea was adopted very quickly and today there are over 450 Sue Ryder’s charity shops in the UK alone. There are charming boutiques in small towns and large branches on the main streets of the metropolises, there are also supermarkets and specialist shops such as bicycle, furniture and vintage stores. In some places special events take place, such as fashion shows, shopping nights and themed sales. Every year in the UK Sue Ryder shops make a profit of £13 million (2016 figures), which is donated to support care in hospices and nursing homes of Sue Ryder.
The first charity shop in Poland was founded by Sue Ryder herself. It was in 1992, a year after the registration of the Polish Foundation. The shop was located in Domy Centrum in Warsaw on Widok Street. The shop was moved to Bagatela Street and it still operates there today. In the meantime six more shops were opened in Warsaw (2 in Śródmieście – including Westfield Arkadia, Bielany, Mokotów, Wola, Żoliborz) and another one in Szczecin. They are a very important part of the Foundation’s activity, because for years they have allowed us to help the elderly, sick and disabled and further expand the organisation.
It is incredible, but the idea of the Sue Ryder charity shop has not changed in 70 years, although it has obviously gained new forms and appearance. First of all, the profit from sales is transferred to help those in need, exactly as the founder planned. Everything is based on donations from people who no longer need their things – often of fantastic quality and in perfect condition. For the donors, and this is first-hand information, emptying of the closet with charity in mind is often like a cleansing gasp of fresh air. Buyers, on the other hand, have access to a high quality range of products at affordable prices. Let’s not forget about the environment either, because using things again means reducing the production of new ones and less garbage. It is a circular economy in its pure form.
Charitable shops show that shopping can be different, that consumption does not have to overshadow people in need. This can be combined! When we talk to our donors and customers, it is easy to see that the awareness of helping is important to them, that they appreciate this form of supporting others. Despite our limited resources, despite the race for numerous goods, we have a deeply hidden desire to share. And these best sides are evoked by the charity shops perfectly. It is also an important part of our business.
Sue Ryder talked about charity shops using another, very significant perspective. It is not just about making it possible for one person to give gifts and for another to buy them. Nor is it only about raising funds for the Foundation’s projects, although this was and is of course an absolute priority. Sue Ryder also pointed out the remarkable space created by shops. For people suffering from a lack of social relations.
It is similar in our shops. The atmosphere is friendly, we know our customers and donors, we talk a lot. We just know some of the shop friends. For many of them it is important, we are aware of that. It is important for us as well.
Charitable shops are also meeting places for lonely individuals. Young people and children come to us seeking advice and help. Others, who feel lonely, come here for company. Thousands of volunteers helping in the shops are also lonely and abandoned people, for whom this work becomes a life-saver.
We take most of the things that others can still use: clothes (clean, not necessarily ironed), shoes, books, albums, music and film records, jewelry, decorations, small household appliances, sport equipment. What’s important, we make use of the things for both adults and children, so toys and board games are also welcome. There are only two conditions.
First of all, the donations must be in good condition and complete. Getting rid of things that cannot be sold unfortunately takes a lot of time and money – as a charity we have to be very careful in accounting for both. High quality gifts, on the other hand, speed up our sales and encourage customers to visit us again. For nearly 30 years, thanks to the generosity of the donors, we have been setting an incredible standard in the range of products sold in our shops, also in terms of rare and sought after items. We are very proud of this and we believe that it will continue to be so.
Secondly, there is a list of things that we can under no circumstances include in the sale, as health and safety issues are at stake. And so, Sue Ryder charity shops will not find room for e.g. weapons, stoves and gas cylinders, fire extinguishers, power tools without user manual, bicycles in poor condition, baby strollers without proper warning labels, toys without CE mark, used duvets and pillows, underwear (unless new, in original packaging), glasses, medicines (including vitamins) or alcohols. If you are not sure whether your donation will be able to find its way onto the shelf, please contact us – firstname.lastname@example.org.
It all starts with a simple gesture – opening the closet, peeking at the shelf. Without great (and often unnecessary) planning or thinking about what could be given away. Looking through your things in most cases is enough to conclude that you simply have too many. Boxes of clothes and items that are not used anymore, unwanted gifts, clean-outs before moving – these are the ideal starting points. We promote such attitude in our charity shops. We can’t wait to see how it turns out for you!