We asked Barbara Power, store manager at Mind in Garforth, Leeds for her view.
Barbara has worked in retail for 30 years and has been at Garforth’s Mind shop for the last eight. “I support the charity, it’s close to my heart, so I wanted to use my experience to give something back,” she said.
She dismissed the suggestion that charity shops are a sign of high street decline, arguing that they play an important role for the communities those high streets serve, as well as raising money for worthy causes.
“There needs to be something for everyone on the high street,” she explained. “Not everyone can afford to visit the more expensive shops regularly, so they really value the chance to pick up a bargain and support a cause from time to time.”
But the store is about more than bargains, Barbara is quick to point out.
“It’s very much part of the fabric of the street,” she said. “It’s lovely to be there to chat to people when they come in, and we have plenty of regulars. We often put an item or two aside for people, because we know it’s something they’d like or need. That simple thought can make such a difference to someone’s life.”
Of course, the shop also plays its part in raising money for much needed mental health services and support, and that aspect of the store also feeds into Barbara’s role.
“A lot of people tend to pop in for chats and ask for advice and information leaflets about the counselling services, and we are always very happy to talk to them, help or point them in the right direction,” she said.
“It’s really nice to feel part of something that is genuinely here for good, and which helps the community in different ways. High streets should be at the heart of communities and I feel that we’re doing our bit for the high street in Garforth.”
Barbara has also noticed a change in attitude towards charity shops in recent years.
“These days our customers come from all kinds of backgrounds and a wide range of ages,” she said. “People are more aware of the bargains they can get and really value them. You would be surprised at the amount of brand new items people donate.”
Given her long experience, Barbara, is also well aware of the risks that shop owners face, from theft through to accidents in store.
“Business insurance for me is having comfort knowing the right insurance is in place. We’re protected if something goes wrong, so we can just focus on the important things; the community and charitable causes the shop is all about.”