Sue’s shop-keeping skills raise £1.1m for Barnardo’s Cymru
A charity shop tucked away in a small South Wales town has raised a remarkable £1.1m for the children’s charity Barnardo’s Cymru, thanks to the shop-keeping skills of manager Sue Langford.
Sue started working at the Ammanford store in 2010 when it was a pop-up shop without any staff and on a six month lease. But from the beginning it proved a success thanks to her energy and determination and now, nine years on, it’s a well-known fixture in the town and is easily Barnardo’s top performing store in Wales.
In those nine years Sue and her dedicated team of staff and volunteers have totted up a total profit of £1.1m to support Barnardo’s services for vulnerable children, young people and families. It raised £184,000 last year alone when the shop was just pipped to the title of best performer among Barnardo’s 700 shops across the UK by a temporary store in Fallowfield which raised £4,000 more.
Now Sue, 56, of Brynamman, has been nominated for the title of Retail Staff Member of the Year in the annual awards run for charity shops across the country by the Charity Retail Association.
Working for Barnardo’s is much more than a job for Sue, it’s a passion, and she’s often to be found dropping in on her days off. “I knew it was a risk when I left a safe job in a gift shop for something that might have only lasted six months but I love a challenge and as soon as I walked in the door I knew this was for me.
“Every day is different and I never know what will come in next, that’s what makes if exciting. Tuesday is furniture day and I love it when the van arrives.
“Last year we had a designer yin and yang table which sold at auction for £1,000 and only last week we had a rare mini Singer sewing machine which raised £500 on eBay. This week’s most bizarre object has to be a model of a spinal column. I love it all,” she said.
She puts much of the store’s success down to the vast number of donations, around 300-400 bags a week, which allows the team to keep the rails well stocked with the surplus being sent to other shops.
Sue said; “I tell my team not to think of it like a charity shop and think, ‘that’ll do’ but to treat it as a normal retail environment and give the donations the same amount of care and attention as in any other shop.
“We get a lot of regular customers. Some come in every day to make sure they don’t miss a bargain while others who live outside Ammanford make it a regular weekly trip. Many of them remark on how it looks more like a mainstream store than a charity shop.”
The shop is now so busy she has four staff and 21 people who volunteer a total of 142 hours a week. They range from teenagers doing Duke of Edinburgh Awards to pensioners in their seventies.
A number of her volunteers have moved on to paid roles within retail after gaining experience at the Ammanford shop and one of her proteges is now running the second most profitable Barnardo’s shop in South Wales. Others have learnt new skills, overcome shyness, made friends and boosted their CVs.
“When I was told how much we had raised since we opened in Ammanford even I went ‘Wow’ but I couldn’t have done it without such a wonderful team. I love coming into work, meeting the customers, thinking up new ideas and knowing the money we raise is supporting such a great cause.”
Her manager David Howells said: “Barnardo’s are able to work with some of the most vulnerable families in Wales thanks to the success of its shops and Sue is a remarkable manager who has made a very valuable contribution to that work.
“Her store has become a destination for shoppers who travel miles to visit and she constantly develops the staff and volunteers she works with. We wish her all the very best for the national awards in Nottingham on June 25.”
Six of the best bargains at Ammanford:
Brown leather sofa £90
Cath Kidson blue and white spotted satchel £8
Jacques Vert cream 2 piece suit £8.50
Jacques Vert Blue Hat £15
Denby salt/pepper/oil set £8
Sony Bravia 43inch TV £75