Elizabeth Palfreman, Hospice UK’s Head of Hospice Support, presents the key questions hospice retail staff need to address.
Easy question of course, it is money to pay for patient care. However, what else does having a retail arm provide your hospice with?
Having undertaken a rebrand while working for a local hospice, what came out of the focus groups was that the high street presence was the number one reason why the local community knew of the hospice if they had not had a loved one cared for there. Your shops are the window to your community and if the layout is jaded or looks unloved, is that how shoppers perceive what care by your hospice looks like?
The thousands of volunteers who toil away in the shops are ambassadors for your organisation both in store and within their social circle. How do you handle them so that the messages you want to get out do, and how do you deal with things when they go wrong?
Again, when working locally we were delighted to receive a substantial legacy from someone we had never heard of. After a lot of digging later I discovered that they were the neighbour of a shop volunteer who could not say enough good things about the hospice to her community.
Hospice retail relies on donations, much of which comes from grateful families. If you are a member of retail staff how much support do you get when families find it hard to let go or breakdown in the shop when handing over loved ones’ possessions? What effect does that have on their mental health?
As an increasing number of hospice services are delivered away from hospice buildings should you be looking at finding premises that can be used as community hubs, where patients can come in for advice and support and the community get to see the hospice as a living entity rather than a place you go to die?
In the beginning of hospice retail, maybe shops were opened where leases were cheap or premises given. Does that work now and do you have a retail strategy that supports the overall direction of the organisation and includes e-commerce? In addition, what about our failing high streets? Is it as bad as the headlines suggest and what can you do to ensure that your hospice shops remain profitable and a great advertisement for your hospice?
Having spoken at length with many hospice CEOs of late, hospice retail is under the microscope. If you have retail in your sights then the Hospice UK Retail Conference on 11 April will give you food for thought. If you look at the programme you will see that each of the points raised in this piece are tackled – it is one retail purchase that all hospices should make.