In this week’s installment of our 24 Hours In The Life Of career series, in which we chat to different women about the ins and outs of their job roles, we’re chatting to Hayley* who is 38-years-old and has been working as a charity shop manager for the past seven years.
Hayley* works four days a week and earns £15,000 a year. She says: “I fell into retail after finishing university and not knowing what to do with my life. I worked for Topshop for a few years and then when my boyfriend (now husband) had to work in a different city for his job, I decided to look for something else. I thought charity retail would be worthwhile (and hopefully more interesting than working for a big company). I was assistant manager for three years and when my manager left I was asked to take over.”
This is what a day in Hayley’s* life looks like…
6am: Wake-up time is very much determined by my five-year-old! Once up, I have toast with either Bovril or peanut butter, and an orange juice. I’m normally eating and drinking breakfast whilst doing my make-up so that I can get out of the door in time to catch the train just after 8 am.”
8.15am: “I try to read a book on the train instead of just scrolling, and twice a week I also pick up a takeaway coffee when I walk through the city as a treat. I also make sure to grab supplies for the shop if I know we’re low (milk, teabags, biscuits – that’s how we pay the volunteers for their time!).”
8.45am: “I check my emails, mostly to make sure none of the volunteers have messaged last minute to say they can’t make it in that day. I have about half an hour to myself before opening the shop so I also make a coffee (if I haven’t bought one) and start working out a plan for the day.”
10am: “My morning till volunteer has emailed an hour before the shop opens to say she is ill and can’t make it in. I’d already agreed my assistant could come in late as she had an appointment, and there’s no one else available at short notice, so I spend the first hour and a half of the day on my own on the till. I run down to the basement to grab something to price on the shop floor whenever the shop is empty. We have quite a large shop with two floors – the ground floor has the usual clothing, household items, CDs/DVDs/records but we also have a vintage section at the back which is my pride and joy. Downstairs we have a whole floor dedicated to books, and a small stockroom, kitchen & loo.
I have CCTV by the till so I can at least see what’s going on in the bookshop whilst I’m stuck upstairs. I have a disgruntled customer at one point which shakes me up a bit as it always feels like a verbal attack, especially when there’s no-one there to back you up. It’s usually someone wanting discount or thinking the price of something is too high, or that they want a refund on something but they haven’t got a receipt. In the case of the pricing I sometimes try to remind them that we are trying to raise money for our charity, and we have sales targets to reach – we can’t sell everything for £1, especially if we know it’s worth so much more – it’s still a bargain, just not as cheap as a jumble sale! We’re also in an affluent city so we are generally able to sell our stock at a higher price than some suburban charity shops.”
11.30am: “My assistant makes it in, and after getting a drink comes up and relieves me so I can leave the shop floor. I start sorting all the donations we had in yesterday afternoon and have had in so far this morning. It’s a real mixture of books, clothing and household items. About half of the clothes are saleable, the rest will go in our ‘rag’ pen to be picked up by a textiles recycling company next week. We don’t have laundry facilities in our shop, so anything stained/soiled, smelly will not be resold by us. We also don’t sell anything holey or really worn. We get a small amount of money from the recycling company, but it’s a bit of a shame we can’t make more money actually selling the item.”
1.15pm: “Our afternoon till volunteer and a book volunteer turn up so I have a quick chat with them and then my assistant and I take it in turns to have our 30min lunch break. I sit in the kitchen with a soup my husband made and carry on reading my book. I have a massive pile of books to read in the stockroom that I save from donations, it’s one of the perks of the job but the pile isn’t going down as quickly as I’d like! One of my favourite things is finding absolute gems in donation bags – a lot of my clothes and accessories are from the shop these days, as well as my books. I also love thinking up creative window displays – we have no budget for that kind of thing so if something interesting comes in as a donation I will sometimes put it by for display. And the big one really is getting a good price for something you know is worth it, and knowing that money is being used for good.”
“After my lunch I price up a box of kitchenware for my till volunteer to put out, and make both the volunteers a hot drink, and point them in the direction of the biscuit tin.”
2.30pm: “A prospective volunteer was supposed to turn up for an induction this afternoon but I’ve had an email to say they can no longer start volunteering with us as they’ve found paid employment. It’s frustrating as we could really do with some more reliable volunteers at the moment, especially on the till. We struggle to get much done in the shop if we’re always covering the shop floor and not getting to process the stock in the stockroom. We have some great volunteers who have been with us since the shop opened, and a lot of people just passing through. I know that’s the way it goes with volunteering, just makes it hard to plan and to manage the shop when the staffing is constantly in a state of flux.”
3pm: “I find a bin bag full of vintage clothes and accessories in the donations pen which cheers me up massively – there’s amazing blouses from the 70s, silk nighties that might be from the 30s/40s, and a leotard with a frilled skirt that looks like it’s from a circus performer! I love thinking about the people that might have worn these items in the past, and have kept them for so long. I want to do them justice so I spend the next hour and a half researching the clothing labels and seeing how much similar items go for on eBay and Etsy so I can price accordingly. I can put more money on these items as they’re much rarer than a high street item. We sell three of the pieces the next morning which is great!”
5pm: “I leave work and get home for around 6pm. My husband is working from home at the moment so we normally have time to eat before putting our son to bed. We do loads of batch-cooking on the weekend if we can, so we don’t have to spend ages in the cooking in the evening. We try to put our son down around 7pm but inevitably it’s more like 8pm by the time he’s asleep! We then watch some TV until about 10pm and then it’s lights off and time for sleep.”