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The future of shops is digital

Author: Elizabeth Wheeler
18 April 2017
  • Rob Finley, director of cloud software provider CharityStore

In this advertorial ahead of the Hospice UK Retail Conference on April 27, director of cloud software provider CharityStore Rob Finley, talks about the future of retail for hospices.

“Charity retail has changed more in the past five years than since it began in World War II.” That is the thought of leading cloud software provider CharityStore, who has urged hospices and charities to rethink their approach to retailing in the modern day.

Rob Finley, director, has taken a retrospective look at when charity shops were first formed and became popular in the UK in the 1940s.

Ran by volunteers and focused towards a consumer struggling to make ends meet during the war effort, they continued through the decades to be a place for frugal and green-minded shoppers.

In 2017 there are more than 9,000 shops across the UK, and that number is growing at an exponential rate.

Organisations have started to take up prime retail spots on the high street once held by traditional retailers before the recession, and are seeking advice on how best to step into the limelight.

CharityStore Director Rob Finley, says:

“In the past five years we have seen a true transitional shift in the sector. We’ve certainly seen a huge upturn in the amount of charities and hospices coming to us with questions about how to go digital and retail in a more diverse way to meet the demand of a new kind of consumer.”

Once used by customers who wanted to bag a bottom price bargain, were happy to pay only in cash, and browse only in store, that customer (no matter how young or old) demands something new, and it’s having an effect on operations

CharityStore’s cloud-based system has helped hospices sell their goods traditionally in-store, but also helps to integrate e-commerce of new goods, inventory for speciality Charity stores and connecting hospices to eBay and Amazon.

Rob adds:

“Physical and digital boutique stores which specialise in niche and tailored products such as furniture, vintage or even designer boutique stores have been growing in popularity, and I definitely see this as a very strong trend in the sector.”

“There is so much competition on the high street now and with rates rising, it is worth investing in a store which sets itself apart from what others are doing - both in how it looks, its pricing, the ambiance, customer services and what it offers loyal supporters too.”

Hospices up and down the country are being urged to become more efficient and cut costs in order to help harness every last penny for the palliative care they help to fund, and that’s exactly what Charitystore can help them do.

Lois Peart, Retail Support Manager at St Elizabeth Hospice, says:

“For us, CharityStore is a business-critical tool. It’s transformed the influence of the technology on retail operations and on business growth.”

The head office system is now universal across their existing 27 stores, bolstering their knowledge to make informed and data-driven decisions to best effect.

“We can now run quarterly reports to evaluate the financial health of each shop, looking at how well each line of goods is doing and modifying merchandising space, stock, pricing and promotions to ensure costly shelf space is utilised effectively.”

“It is straightforward too to compare shops and use the outcomes to improve business across the board. For example, learning useful lessons from those shops with particularly high donation rates.”

Making the most of intelligent customer data has proven to be a success when it comes to increasing loyalty and return custom.  Lois explains:

“Offering CharityStore Gift Aid supporter cards has encouraged people to donate goods and reclaiming tax has made for a very positive revenue uplift.

“The card combines with our loyalty scheme which has also encouraged more donations and more repeat custom. When the shopper’s card is scanned at the till, points are allocated for the purchase. The credit accumulated on the card can then be offset against future purchases. It has been really effective.”

Even in charity retail, security is important from in-store security to data security. That’s why Cybertill are an ISO 27001 company who utilise all their retail knowledge to ensure systems are ultimately secure.

Commenting on this, Lois says:

“It’s virtually impossible to commit fraud with a CharityStore system. There are lots of elements in it that make it very safe.”

As part of their innovative approach to continually improve hospice retailing, CharityStore have recently developed a New Point of Sale system - the very latest in online and offline till technology to streamline till transactions whatever the connection.

“We are always looking to invest in and develop our products, to suit the evolving market and fulfill both client and customer expectations,” added Rob.

“This new advancement is a way to show our customers that we understand that when things go wrong our system is always there and we have a solution to meet their needs at every point.”

With these advances driving the new face of charity retail, and back office staff having access to the most advanced holistic view of their organisations’ incomes and revenues, the time is now to rethink retailing in the third sector.

Rob adds:

“Without doubt we will see even further changes to charity store operations and systems in the coming months and years. What you did five years ago won’t cut it on the shop floor today. It is time to make a change before it’s too late.”

For more information go to CharityStore.

To register for the Hospice UK Retail Conference 2017 visit ‘Hospice Retail – Reinvention or Revolution?’

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