Oh, to live in Barnes. Or, Notting Hill. Or any of the locations of the best charity shop I have found in London: FARA. Here is a charity shop that says, “Yes, you will help people by shopping here, but also you will look awesome because everyone who lives here looks awesome.” A friend raved about dressing her kids in little GAP jackets and Levi jeans – all adorable, inexpensive and in pristine condition thanks to a FARA children’s shop.
I live in West Norwood. I love it here, but none of the charities shops scream, “Yes! You have arrived.”
Is aspiration the next level of charity shops? Time Out recently did a Best Charity Shops in London list. (Yes, FARA in Pimlico was on it. As were many other charity shops located in areas far too expensive for my young family to set up roots.)
How important is it that a charity shop is successful? For example, Cancer Research is a major and very successful charity: if all their charity shops performed poorly or looked poorly (and incidentally, I don’t think they do), would it make a difference to the charity as a whole?
There is an aspect to charity shops that is often overlooked. The brand set up on your local high street is a community meeting point between the average person and a charity. When considering whether to make a donation in a will many people will site a charity they have a personal connection with. If they haven’t, for example, used Macmillan nurses personally – than where do they make this connection? Their local charity shop.
To ignore these local roots is to cause major problems in the long-term. A couple of charities I worked with years ago, decided to shut down their local charity shops. For whatever reason, they weren’t performing well and the charities felt they were a drain on their resources. At the time, I advised against it but the charities felt they would save money closing these stores down.
Long-term, without these local connections, the charities suffered. Years later, they are needing to go back to the high street and reinstate themselves in the minds of the public.
So is FARA a success with its aspirational stores? Well, I’ll ask you this: do you know what FARA do? “FARA transforms the lives of Romania’s most deprived and vulnerable children and young people.” 81% of their income comes from their charity shops.
Think about my friend… She isn’t Romanian or with ties to the country. But, one day she may write out a gift in her will – the average gift being £20,000 a far great sum than the average purchase in a charity shop. Who will she leave it to? Expect big things from FARA in the future.
What does your local charity shop say about your area?
Jonathan Cook | firstname.lastname@example.org | +44 (0)7921 250 211
Feature photo: Flickr