Twenty-two years in retail – Sue Painter’s Story
St Wilfrid’s shop employee Sue Painter shares what has made 22 years so special to her…
“I first started working for St Wilfrid’s shops in 2000, so I’ve been here 22 years now! I was working for a commercial clothes retailer before, so I was already in the ‘rag trade’ as we call it. I didn’t know much about the Hospice but I had friends who worked for charitable organisations and it was local to me so I thought I’d give it a go.
My first shop was the St Wilfrid’s Dress Agency in Chichester. We used to sell garments on the customers’ behalf, splitting the profits 50/50. It was a popular way of shopping at the time, and there were three dress agencies in Chichester I think. I moved on from there when we realised having our own shops made more income for the Hospice, and they asked me to open the shop in Emsworth. When I saw it, I thought ‘how will I make this into a charity shop?!’ as it was so small, but we made it a lovely boutique-style shop, and it is still there to this day.
Over the years, I’ve managed quite a few of our shops, including Felpham, Chidham, Barnham and our new shop on East Street in Chichester. I also support our newer retail managers as they get to grips with running the shops. When the Hospice was at Grosvenor Road, we had a little gift shop there and I managed that too. I loved that as I got to meet everyone who was in the Hospice visiting their loved ones.
My favourite part of being a retail shop manager is the variety, and all the different people I meet in our volunteer team. They have so many different experiences and different reasons for volunteering, and I respect that they are giving up their time to help us and I love hearing their stories. Retail has changed quite a lot, previously charity shops used to be a bit of a ‘no go’ but now people recognise that they are great for recycling and finding unique things, and the younger generation are really getting into it. We offer a great range of products at affordable prices. I worked through all of the lockdowns and I enjoyed learning about our ecommerce side of the organisation- I was listing items on eBay and when they sold it gave me a buzz!
I’ve been involved in lots of different fundraising events for St Wilfrid’s, including volunteering every year for the Moonlight walk, a fire walk and a Santa Fun Run but I absolutely loved doing a sponsored abseil down Spinnaker Tower in aid of the Hospice when I was 65! When I got to the bottom I asked to go back up again I loved every second of it so much!
I’ve worked here for 22 years because I am so passionate about the cause. People used to consider hospices as sad places but I think that is slowly changing as people understand the different services we offer, and how important we are to the community. None of us know when we, or a member of our family or a friend, might need the Hospice’s help.
I describe the Hospice as like the biggest, warmest hug you could ever have. I’m proud to be involved and I’ve got no intention of slowing down yet even though I’m 70 this year!”