Oxfam is to open its first superstore on the outskirts of Oxford in an experiment geared toward turning perceptions of charity buying as outdated on their head.

On the sting of a sprawling enterprise park off a ringroad to the south-east of the town, a squad of 20-plus employees and volunteers have been busy sorting by way of new merchandise and donations to inventory the store in readiness for its opening on 7 September.

Inside the doorway of the hangar-style industrial unit, about 12 occasions the scale of the common Oxfam store, a prolonged wall of show items is stuffed with merchandise from its eco-friendly Sourced by Oxfam vary together with Fairtrade chocolate and low, bamboo espresso cups and lunchboxes and packs of Christmas playing cards.

All the things else could be very completely different within the huge and ethereal area, which the charity needs to be greater than only a store. “Our goal is for this to be an satisfying and enjoyable ‘vacation spot’ buying expertise,” says Oxfam’s buying and selling director, Andrew Horton. “Clients will be capable of store ethically, however we would like this new retailer to have the wow issue. We wish individuals to linger, to speak over espresso. We have now a 10-year lease on this unit and whether it is profitable we are going to roll it out in different places.”

The area contains the primary on-site cafe, which can serve a altering menu of “world meals” in addition to tea and low. “The cafe will likely be on the coronary heart of a brand new neighborhood area the place we are going to host free talks and occasions for college teams, for instance,” Horton mentioned.

Oxford is, in fact, the place the charity was based greater than 75 years in the past and the primary Oxfam store opened its doorways there in 1948. It now has 610 outlets within the UK, and a rising on-line operation, however logistics might be difficult in its outlets in cities and metropolis centres, the place there may be additionally intense competitors amongst charity outlets on the excessive avenue. The pilot superstore was impressed by the Swedish kids’s charity Erikshjalpen, which created a larger-format retailer in an accessible location and never on a standard retail park.

The Oxfam superstore’s neighbours embrace a Premier Inn and a David Lloyd health centre. “We determined that opening on a retail park can be a problem – dealing with typical opening hours of 10am to 8pm was going to be a tricky ask when it comes to staffing,” Horton mentioned. “This fits us higher and we are going to solely open 4 days per week.”

Oxfam’s superstore will open 4 days per week. {Photograph}: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

A drive-in donation level on the rear of the store is meant to make it simpler for individuals to donate bigger objects and in bulk. Amongst different new concepts being examined are a “market stall” space with 12 cubicles for native moral B Corps, lending libraries for electrical items and others. Oxfam will even promote secondhand white items for the primary time, with a one-year guarantee, by way of the native firm Rework.

Oxfam has additionally emerged as an unlikely rising star on the UK’s fast-growing on-line trend scene because it casts an more and more canny eye over branded cast-offs and classic types handed in to its outlets each day. There’s a giant mezzanine space within the new superstore dedicated to on-line gross sales, the place Oxfam will {photograph} high-value classic trend objects, sought-after homeware and books and publish them on Pinterest and different social media.

Oxfam’s operations supervisor, Emma Pleasure, says: “We take the view that individuals who donate need us to try to elevate as a lot cash as we will. Not too long ago we obtained a model new 1984 Sony Walkman nonetheless in its field which we offered on-line for £1,000.”

Most cancers Analysis UK reopened its redesigned premium retailer on London’s Marylebone Excessive Avenue in January, providing manufacturers resembling Chanel, Fendi, Gucci and Celine in an effort to improve the charity buying expertise. Barnardo’s has additionally given its homeware sections a contemporary makeover.

Amid the excessive avenue doom and gloom, UK charity outlets have boosted UK retail gross sales, however Horton says Oxfam’s precedence is to spice up donations and the scale of its volunteer workforce.

The nationwide volunteer workforce is at present round 23,000 sturdy, and he’s constructing a pool of 150 for the brand new retailer. Amongst them is Rosemary Shurgold, a retired well being customer who has volunteered at Oxfam’s Cowley Highway store for 12 years. “I really like Oxfam and I completely love this new retailer,” she smiles. “You’d should pay me to remain away.”

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