Bargains in store as Norwood reopens its charity shops

Footfall is back to pre-lockdown levels, despite limits on customers. And a 50 per cent sale is boosting trade


Closed for five months because of the pandemic, Norwood’s seven charity shops are back in business — and selling well.

Norwood’s head of trading operations, Kayt Mendies, said the first stores to reopen last week had experienced an enthusiastic response from customers.

“Lots of people were waiting for us, especially from the Jewish community,” she told the JC. Although not going into financial details, Ms Mendies said a contact who runs a Soho boutique had told her it had taken a month to generate the income that Norwood’s ladies’ shop in Golders Green had taken in the first week of its return.

Riccardo Di Maio, who manages the two Golders Green stores, acknowledged that a 50 per cent sale for September was boosting business, with footfall similar to pre-lockdown levels.

In order to trade under Covid-19 guidelines, the shops are operating on reduced hours, five days a week, to allow staff time to clean the premises. The Golders Green ladies’ outlet, Norwood’s largest shop, permits a maximum of seven customers at a time.

One “struggle” for the enterprise had been finding volunteers, especially for the Golders Green stores, as many they had previously relied on were older and cautious about returning. Ms Mendies is trying to encourage college and fashion students to get involved. Norwood staff who had been furloughed have been redeployed.

Among those working in the Golders Green outlet is Donna Sanders, who would usually be running the warehouse. She said she was “excited to see customers again. I’ve had so many people call me going: ‘When’s it opening?’”

Ms Mendies was sad that service users would not be able to help out in the shops for the moment, given their involvement was at “the heart of what we do”. But many in Norwood accommodation were still shielding. “They’re not even allowed out to see their family, let alone having them in the shops.”

Norwood’s shops are accepting limited items but donors are asked to ring in advance. All donations are quarantined for a minimum of 48 hours before being sorted by staff wearing gloves and a mask.

The impact of the pandemic on the wider retail industry has also affected donations of new clothes and accessories from corporate suppliers. “We’ve ended up with quite a lot from some, others we haven’t heard from yet,” Ms Mendies reported.

With the changing rooms closed, customers are allowed to exchange items within 14 days.

Mr Di Maio said he preferred the new way of operating. “I think it’s better, even for the customers. They can have a more relaxed time in the shop.”

December is usually the busiest trading month and Ms Mendies is mindful of the prospect of another lockdown. If the shops had to close again, an option would be offering some of the new items for sale online.

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