Day to Day at Primrose Hospice: Our Shops

Most people will agree that times are hard in the UK right now. The cost of living crisis continues to bite and the recent news of further economic downturn will be leaving many with feelings of worry about the future. Fortunately, Primrose Hospice remains steadfast in its commitment to provide free care and support to those with life-limiting illnesses and families, and we’ll continue to be there when you need us. Of course, this doesn’t happen by magic and one of the biggest contributors to the success of Primrose Hospice has been our shops.

We recently discussed the 10th Birthday of our Headless Cross shop in Redditch where we had the pleasure of chatting with Ian, our Retail Manager and Jayne, one of our excellent volunteers. Today we’ll be continuing this conversation to learn more about what happens behind the scenes at our shops and how they’ve played an important role in supporting Primrose over the years.

To start though, let’s take a look at a little history of our shops…

First conceived back in 1992, 5 years after the birth of Primrose Hospice, a plan was hatched to develop a network of charity shops that could support the Hospice and its services. This led to the opening of our first shop on the Bromsgrove High Street in 1993 at the bottom end of town, offering great deals on bric-a-brac and clothing. Although relatively humble in its beginnings, this shop set the foundations for what would come, and is fondly remembered by staff and patients alike. Things were kicked up a gear in 1997 with the second shop opening on Alcester Street in Redditch, closely followed with the opening of a shop in Studley in 1998 and Rubery in 2000.

Today, things are a little different and the success of our first shops enabled further developments to take place. This began in 2013, when our Retail Manager, Ian McRoy, joined the team and set out to improve our selling of donated furniture.

Ian recalls;

I joined in 2013 and we had 4 shops. One in particular in Redditch town centre was half filled with furniture andIan McRoy, Retail Manager of Primrose Hospice stood in the Hospice garden the rest was our usual products – clothing, bric-a-brac etc. but with the amount of furniture we were being offered, there was just not the space in that unit and I could see the potential for a larger unit selling furniture.

So one of the first jobs I did when I joined the Hospice was to look around all of the locations for a new unit. This particular unit we’re in now – the Headless Cross Shop, just happened to come up in the August (2013) after I joined. I walked into the unit with the agent and within 5 minutes I’d made up my mind; this was the unit we wanted for our furniture shop. There were a few reasons, 1, was the size of the shop which was great for furniture, 2, there was plenty of back area for us to sort, and 3, it was an easy drop-off donation place. You could park up at the front of the shop and come straight in with your donations. So all of those factors were why I wanted this unit.

When we opened at the Headless Cross Shop in January 2014, we soon realised sales were far better than we thought they were going to be, and the number of donations were far higher than we ever expected. That’s continued for the last 10 years and may it continue for a lot longer; it’s really important to us as a charity.”

The success of the Headless Cross Shop quickly empowered Primrose to improve its other premises culminating in the shops we have today. Our current shop in Bromsgrove opened in 2018, which was closely followed by a shop in Droitwich in 2019, Rubery in 2020 and the Kingfisher Centre in Redditch, 2021.

Sitting down to chat further with Ian and Jayne, I asked what makes the best donations and if there’s been anything particularly memorable.

Ian says;

The best donations for charity shops are good quality men’s and ladies’ wear, bric-a-brac items and furniture. We are always looking for good quality donations which can be dropped off at any of our shops.

I think my most memorable donations were, about 6 years ago when we had some rugs donated to us from a house locally. When we got these rugs, they were quite dirty and worn and we thought they’re not something we could probably sell. But when we researched them we realised they were a top brand rug and I think we sold the 4 rugs for approximately just under £5,000. So that was a really memorable time of being here. It was something we thought was worth little or nothing actually turned out to be worth a lot of money and a great boon for the Hospice.”

Jayne reminisces;

“A customer said to me recently, a young lad who was only in his 20s, he loves coming in every couple of weeks because it reminds him of his grandparent’s house and brings back memories.

It’s nice to see and talk to the customers about their memories, like their old grandparents and items that they find in the shop.”

Volunteering is an incredibly important part of Primrose Hospice, allowing it to provide the services it does, so I ask Jayne and Ian what people can gain by volunteering with Primrose Hospice.

I took early retirement to become a carer for my Dad but over time that was no longer needed so I didn’t really know what to do with myself if I’m honest. So I started coming up here and I’ve been in most days for the last couple of months. It’s a good place to come, nice to meet all the customers, good people to work with and have a laugh. That’s how I ended up here!”

Ian adds;

“I think volunteering in any of our shops is about what we can give you as much as what you can give us. In this shop there’s a lot of different facets to it so, for example, we have our furniture area, we have our bric-a-brac area, also books and media. We also do lots of clothes sorting at our Headless Cross shop which we then distribute to our other shops around the area. We’re always looking for people across all of our volunteer roles, so please do consider joining us.”

Thinking about the benefits to the Hospice, Ian also mentions;

“As a Hospice we need to raise £1.95m a year across everything we do. We are partly funded by the NHS but that’s only a small percentage, so everything else we have to raise through fund raising or our shops. Our charity shops raise around 32% of our needed income every year. So why come to us? Well, first you’re going to get something that’s good value and good quality, and second, you’ll be helping by purchasing those items at the Hospice, to keep it running and keep on doing the vital work that it does.”

 Take a look at our short film to learn a bit more about our Headless Cross shop below:

To learn more about our shops including directions to your nearest outlet, take a look at our shop information page.

Join us in the next article where we’ll be celebrating Complementary Therapy week! In the meantime, let us know what your best purchase was from a Primrose shop on our social media.

by Josh Davies

Published: 22.02.24