Sunday, 17 May 2015

Why I'd never return to charity retail management.

As you know, I love charity shops. In fact, the majority of my life outside of work is spent looking in them, travelling to and from them or writing about them on here. You’d think that being surrounded by second hand clothes, having first dibs on them and getting a discount would be my ideal job, right? Wrong.

I started working for a UK wide charity as a part time Assistant Manager while I was completing a course at Edge Hill University. I worked two days a week – one day to cover the manager’s day off and one day supporting her. At first, I loved it. The shop I worked in had long had plans to set up a vintage clothing section and I was put it charge of that.

When I dropped out of my university course, the charity asked me to work full time as a travelling manager, doing cover in all the northwest shops. This meant I’d often be up at 6am and getting home after 8pm. I’d also be in up to five different shops per week, which meant I never really settled into a team or got to know any volunteers well enough to really build a relationship with them.

Then came a fall out with the Manager at my base shop which escalated to Area Manager level and could only be resolved by my Area Manager driving over to see me – the outcome of which was that my contract had to be changed to another base shop. I began to commute from Preston to Oldham every day, which was both tiring and very expensive. I LOVED the Oldham shop and made some great friends but the commute and the cost wasn’t sustainable so I started to look for management jobs with other charities.

After seven months working for my first charity, I secured a job with a smaller charity with only a handful of shops in the northwest. My new role involved setting up a shop from scratch in new premises. At first, I loved it but things began to go downhill quickly.

Financial targets in charity shops can be ridiculous. What Area Managers tend to forget is that you simply cannot control the quality and volume of stock that comes through the door. There’s also a limit to what people will pay for second hand goods. They also tend to forget that volunteers have no contract and if they don’t want to turn up for work, that’s completely up to them. There’s no way you can operate a till, maintain displays, take donations, complete daily banking and sort stock single handedly but sometimes, that’s what it comes down to.

My Area Manager was a real nasty piece of work. I asked her time and time again for support in dealing with volunteer issues, which included suicide threats and domestic violence cases.  

I became so stressed and unhappy. I lost huge chunks of hair and for months after leaving I would wear a hat or a scarf whenever I went outside in addition to undergoing many rounds of blood tests only to discover the cause was not physical. Even now, nearly two years on, my hair has never recovered. The hangover in the decline of my mental health took well over a year to dissipate and only now do I feel I'm mostly back to who I was before. The job ruined my relationships with my family, my friends and played a huge part in the end of my relationship.

It’s a really hard job and I give my utmost respect to those people who do it. I mentioned in a blog that I had only recently started shopping with the first charity I worked for but I can safely say that I will never give another penny to the second which is a terrible shame because they raise money for a good cause but I don’t want to think my money may go to paying the wages of the people who were responsible for making me so ill.

I find it incredible that a charity can treat their staff so poorly when their whole purpose is to improve the lives of people.

Char x


  1. I know exactly where you are coming from. I worked in a couple of Charity Shops and so much is expected of you. I loved helping don't get me wrong but the managers expect so much. Also they were hardly ever there meaning they never knew what people were willing to spend. 

    I was instructed to up the price in one shop which annoyed me as I knew people would never spend €4 on a top from Penneys (Primark).

    Some of the workers opinions can be ignored. X

    1. Hi Tanya, thanks for your comment! This is the problem...I think it's sad that people who get into these jobs to help should end up feeling under so much stress. My manager was also really far removed from the real world price-wise - probably because she earned a fortune and a lot of managers were on barely more than minimum wage!x

  2. Hi, just reading your blog for the first time today (via RSPCA MCR&Salford Facebook). I can really relate to what you say about charity retail management, my last paid role made me ill too.

    I liked the shops and most of the people, but the wider issues were too much - far harder than targets I'd had in regular retail.

    1. Hi! Thanks for reading (I didn't even know they'd posted a link?!).

      I'm sorry to hear that and I hope you're better now! I definitely think something needs to be done as so many people seem to still be having a crap time.