Monday, 14 September 2015

All Aboard!

Recently, I was contacted by All Aboard Charity Shops after admiring some of the photos on their Instagram page. Having previously thought all their charity shops were in London, I was delighted to discover I didn't have to continue just to look from afar as the charity have a shop in Prestwich in North Manchester! 
So last Monday, I took the short tram ride from the city centre and this is what I discovered...

The charity was founded over twenty years ago by a lady called Stella Lucas and was set up to help and support, through retail sales, Jewish charitable organisations. Nowadays, All Aboard run nineteen shops in total, eighteen of which are in Greater London. Proceeds from these nineteen shops and a successful eBay account support over fifty organisations based in the UK.

Shop front - All Aboard, Prestwich

The Prestwich shop makes up part of The Longfield Centre, a shopping precinct just opposite the tram station. The shop was easy to find with really clear branding and an open and attractive front window. The inside of the shop is bright, airy and open with clear sections for menswear, jewellery, things for the home etc and also has a section for children, much to the delight of parents wanting to shop!

I was given a really warm welcome and made to feel really at home by Shop Manager Wendy, Deputy Shop Manager Angela and all the shop's wonderful volunteers! In addition, I met Corri who oversees all of All Aboard's nineteen shops (I can't even imagine how much money I'd spend if that were my job!).

My first impression was just how organised an operation Wendy runs! A look in the upstairs storage room of the shop revealed stock sectioned off into not just summer and winter but sparkles and gifts for Christmas, raffle prizes, fancy dress, toys and decorations along with separate storage for different accessories - many incredible hats, bags and pairs of shoes! Wendy told me she knows exactly where everything is so if a customer asks for something in particular, she can tell them if they have it within a couple of minutes. Having worked in shops myself, I'm in awe of anyone who can form such order from donations where no bag is the same!

Lovely things for the home

Huge collection of donated jewellery

Gift ideas and raffle prizes ready for Christmas

Fancy dress

A walk around the shop floor served to highlight how well-renowned the shop is within the local community. Customers were chatting to each other and to volunteers and I overheard more than one customer saying, completely unprompted, that All Aboard was their favourite shop in the area to visit. This was also evident in the amount of donations the shop receive. The volunteers were kept busy with multiple drop-offs in the two hours I spent at the shop. Considering the shop is surrounded by some charities with UK-wide branding, this is a real testament to the reputation Wendy and her team have built up in the years the shop has been trading.

Wendy told me she has about twenty volunteers with three people on a waiting list to join. Everyone who reads the blog will know how much I support the 'traditional' charity shop as not just a retail outlet but as somewhere with the interests of the community and the local people at the heart of it. That's what All Aboard do so well - yes, the stock processing is quick and the till was always ringing but there was a really nice feel to the place which hits you as soon as you walk through the door.
I'm pretty certain this attitude is representative of the charity as a whole. Corri told me that founder Stella still visits the London shops frequently despite being 99 years of age!

So much choice in ladies clothes

Shop Manager Wendy modelling two gorgeous Zara bags 

I'd really like to thank everyone at All Aboard for facilitating such a great day! I'm really excited to return as the shop complete the change over into winter stock - some of the pieces I got a sneak preview of are really gorgeous! If you're in the Manchester area, don't just take my word for it - the shop is open six days a week for you to see for yourself!

Winter stock waiting to make an appearance!

As for my purchases, they'll be making an appearance in a recent finds post towards the end of the week!

For a full list of All Aboard shops and to find out how you can support the charity, please see the website.

Char x

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