By Fiona Walker
WE recently put on a sale with a difference at the Cancer Research store in St Helier. When I say ‘we’, I am just a lowly volunteer, but when you gather together a group of enthusiastic helpers with a shared aim, good things can happen.
The mainstay of the store is second-hand clothes, although we are also lucky to receive ‘end of line’ merchandise from various sources and ‘bought in goods’, which are distributed to all of Cancer Research’s 600 outlets up and down the country. Having a range of unused products on sale gives the charity stores their distinctive style and offers tremendous value for money, as many of our customers are already aware.
But back to the clothes. Most of the donations we receive on a daily basis are sorted, steamed and prepared for sale but, quite frequently, clothes are donated that are of a far superior quality to the norm… designer labels and top brands that wouldn’t look out of place on the rails of Harrods or Selfridges.
Over the course of the past few months, volunteers separated the most exclusive wear from the rest of the donations, and earlier this year we put out an appeal for ‘designer wear and top-quality brands’ and, unsurprisingly, Jersey responded with alacrity and generosity. By the appointed time for our one-off sale, we had boxes, bags and crateloads of beautiful clothing and accessories. Many of those donating said that, although they had wanted to give a particular item to charity, they didn’t want to see a piece that had been bought for a special occasion being sold for just a few pounds. Like us, they were aware that a number of these items end up on eBay or other sales sites.
A beautiful wedding dress was donated by a bride who had lost a close relative to cancer. Her desire to support the charity was echoed by others who gave us attire that held emotional attachment.
By the time we opened the doors for our ‘Top Brands and Designer Sale’, there was a queue running along Halkett Place. The first customer into the shop had been waiting for over two hours, so determined was she to purchase a beautiful Alice Temperley evening gown from the window. She was almost in tears as she paid for the dress, telling us that she could not imagine anything more beautiful and had set her heart on it the moment she saw it – she would be wearing this dress for her wedding in a few months’ time.
Cancer Research was open for two hours on the first evening of the sale and, to the delight of staff and volunteers, customers thronged through the doors. Garments were pored over, examined, tried on and, far more importantly, purchased. A queue formed at the till as more and more people made their selections. Those who couldn’t make their minds up in time were likely to find they didn’t get a second chance, as others were ready and waiting to pounce on the bargains in store. Surprisingly, it wasn’t just the clothes in our special sale that caught the eye: a number of customers who had never previously visited the shop found attire they liked on other, more affordable, rails.
Over the following few days, the store was far busier than usual, as customers who had been unable to visit on the first day of the sale popped in to see what was still available. Due to the volume of clothes that had been donated, many were able to find a special garment at a great price: a little more expensive than the norm for a charity shop, but a whole lot less expensive than these beautiful clothes had been at their original prices.
On Saturday, a group of youngsters came in and, when they departed, so did an exclusive designer T-shirt. It was one of the more expensive items in the sale. Last year, Cancer Research spent £25m researching colon and rectal cancer, £23m researching breast cancer, £23m researching lung cancer and £17m researching leukaemia… the list goes on and on, but you get my drift. Over 80% of the price of that T-shirt would have gone directly towards further research, had it actually been paid for.
On a more positive note, thanks to a brilliant and enthusiastic team of staff and volunteers, donations from a generous public and crowds of eager customers, Cancer Research Jersey has had its most successful day of trading since it opened. Now we’re thinking in terms of a pre-Christmas sale… watch this space.