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Ancient Egyptian figurine wins most unusual item at Hospice UK’s retail awards

10 May 2018

An Egyptian figurine from around 350 BC has won the award for Most Unusual Item donated to a hospice shop in Hospice UK’s retail conference awards.

The figurine, known as a ‘shabti’ features an extract in hieroglyphics from the Book of the Dead, a compilation of spells designed to guide the deceased through the dangers of the underworld.

The lower legs and feet of the green ceramic are missing but it still features four horizontal bands of a nine band inscription from the Book of the Dead.

Shabtis were designed to do any manual work on behalf of their owner in the afterlife, so the figurine holds farming tools in its crossed hands and has a bag of seed whose twisted cord suspension strap can be seen over its left shoulder.

The artefact was spotted by the manager at the Crystal Peaks shop run by St Luke’s Hospice in Sheffield, and could easily have been overlooked as tourist memorabilia. Experts have verified its authenticity and believe it originates from circa.350 BC.

Other unusual items donated to hospice shops for the awards included: a set of prehistoric mammoth bones and a seemingly ordinary old pair of binoculars donated to the Paul Sartori Foundation in Pembrokeshire. However, an eagle-eyed volunteer spotted the potential value of these binoculars and after much research it was established that they were World War II German U-boat Commanders Binoculars. The hospice later auctioned them on ebay.

The retail awards conference - called ‘Spring clean. Fresh ideas to drive your Hospice Retail Forward' – took place last week in Warwickshire.

The annual conference is an opportunity for hospice retail staff to come together and learn from other sectors. Highlights from the day included a presentation by leading retailer Joules about how they have bucked retail trends by continuing to open stores and grow their online presence. The conference also featured a session on how Ashgate Hospice set up an online furniture store that challenges the perception of charity retail shopping.

Commenting on the awards Catherine Bosworth, Director of Income Generation at Hospice UK, said:

“These awards celebrate the colour and creativity of the UK’s hospice retail sector, from the innovative to the downright quirky, as reflected in the intriguing items donated to hospice shops.

“Hospice shops are a key player in the charity sector retail market - they raise crucial income for hospices and are also a great way of helping increase awareness about hospice care.”

This year’s other winners

Pilgrims Hospices won the Hospice Retail Team of the year award. It has been a very successful year for the team as its income has increased 20 per cent year on year and its operating costs are down by five per cent. Volunteer recruitment has increased significantly and the hospice has also improved volunteer retention rates through several measures such as holding regular meetings, introducing a quarterly newsletter and a training programme to bring out the best in all their volunteers. 

Sharon Meesum won Retail Volunteer of the Year, having volunteered for The Myton Hospices for more than 20 years at their Kenilworth shop and warehouse, developing strong expertise in valuing and pricing stock, and helping to raise more than £500,000 for hospice care. She has built strong relationships with donors at the Kenilworth shop and her empathetic and caring nature has helped generate many repeat donors. She has also created many eye-catching window displays.

Susan Barnes and Caroline Pickering, co- managers at the Shakespeare Hospice bookshop and coffee shop in Stratford-upon-Avon, were awarded Specialist Retail Outlet of the Year. They are both described as going “above and beyond” in their duties merchandising windows, holding special events in store and increasing income for the store. They put in extra hours, ask friends and family to donate items needed for the store to save the hospice money, and have received excellent feedback from customers and donors.

For more information visit Hospice UK Retail Conference 2018

See more articles in People and places

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