Pete Jew (58), manages Shelter Scotland’s Stockbridge shop – famous for its January launch events. He was recently named the UK’s top charity shop workerat the Charity Retail Awards.
I’ve raised around £7 million pounds since I started working for Shelter 21 years ago. Back in 1995 I had been working in a small independent store selling second hand clothing but that job changed and I wrote speculatively to all the charity shops in Edinburgh. Shelter invited me for an interview and gave me the keys to their Forrest Road branch that afternoon. I worked there for five years and then for one year as an area manager before coming to the Stockbridge shop as manager.
We have been doing what I call January launches for the past 14 years, selling designer goods such as Dior, Burberry, Chanel and Armani. It’s not a sale – it’s a launch. It’s meant to promote the quality of our stock during what would normally be a quiet time of the year. It kind of happened by accident. I was promoting Christmas cards solidly in the window from November which meant we didn’t have any space to promote our better stock so I saved it for January. Unbeknown to me this grew to a situation where it became an event. The wonderful thing about it is that for one day of the year the shop looks magnificent - it’s ripped apart within half an hour though.
The turnover of the shop (including the Shelter bookshop next door) is around £470,000 a year. My goal is to raise half a million pounds in a year. I don’t really think about the money though. I think it’s fantastic we are raising so much but it’s much more important for me to have a beautiful shop and to have a shop that people leave happy and pleased with their purchases. We price with humility. We try to raise as much money as we can for the charity but we try to make our stock affordable.
I’m most entertained by the ridiculous items that we get donated – I’m drawn to the darker side of life, so if things are humorous I find them very entertaining
It’s absolutely important to me to work for an organisation that has a social purpose like Shelter. It’s the cherry on the cake. I’m doing a job that I love but I’m also helping other people. I think Shelter’s cause is more valid than ever today. Shelter is coming up to its 50th anniversary and I think things are probably worse now than they were in the 1960s – there is a massive division between wealth and poverty. Shelter is a worthy charity to work for and it makes me proud to do so.
We’ve got between 50 and 60 volunteers here, and we have a team of five part time members of staff. The thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is the knowledge that I am going to be stimulated persistently all day. As a manager you have to make a million and one decisions from the minute you arrive at work. I like to be busy as I have a very high work ethic.
We get great support from the local community. Every single item for sale in the shop has been handed in over our front door. We have lots of great customers and know a lot of them on first name terms. One of our ladies Jean, we call her the chocolate lady because she brings us chocolate every week, has just had her first tattoo and she is in her 80s.
Because I’ve been doing this for 21 years, I’m most entertained by the ridiculous items that we get donated. My home is minimalist, I can’t bear clutter because I work with it all day but I’m drawn to the darker side of life, so if things are humorous – perhaps in a bad way – I find them very entertaining!
If I wasn’t working here I would have liked to have pursued a career in music. I write music and I play the piano every day. I like anything that is creative and in a way this job is quite creative as I get to do the displays. I like to think the shop is the most colourful shop in Edinburgh.