Jayne Cartwright - Bold Thinkers Prosper
Since leaving university, Jayne Cartwright has spent 23 years in charity retail. At 21, she was the youngest Oxfam Shop Manager, working in Reading. The shop had a disused café in the basement, and she persuaded the retail managers to allow her to open this as a vegetarian and health food café (as there was no competition in the city). So, without any catering experience, she found and trained a group of volunteers to run a successful café, selling fair trade and vegetarian foods. Both the shop and café exceeded all financial expectations and raised the profile of Oxfam across the city. After nearly three years, Jayne managed a charity shop equivalent of Poundland for Oxfam, a large supermarket size operation, entirely run by volunteers and processing 4000 items per week.
In 2005, Jayne joined Save the Children as Retail Operation Manager for Northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Two years later, Jayne also became responsible for other forms of fundraising in the community, and then became Head of Retail UK in 2008. Thinking out of the box again she project managed a ‘pop-up’ Save the Children store in Westfield Shopping Centre in London with Mary Portas and Grazia, the largest charity pop-up store ever. 400 volunteers supported the project (mostly Westfield shoppers looking for something rewarding to be part of). Many retailers from Westfield were inspired and gave stock and time. Within three weeks the store raised £109,000, and with very little costs attached – a charity retailer’s dream.
In 2010 Jayne set up the Charity Retail Consultancy, and she still crosses paths with Mary Portas today. It goes to show where a little outside-the-box thinking can take you. We caught up with Jayne to find out about her inspirations and challenges:
I think we can all remember what charity shops were like in the 80’s! Where did your desire for this area of retail come from in an era fixated with designer labels?
My desire came from two places: firstly, as a 21 year old I wanted (and still want!) to do my bit to make the world a better place; and also a love of making money via retail. I’d worked in and managed a family friend’s fashion store during school and university holidays and I loved the buzz I got from selling clothes and cashing up after a busy day. Combining that with helping make as much money as I could for a great cause like Oxfam gave me the biggest thrill! My regional manager trusted me to make the most of the shop in terms of merchandising, customer service, special events, etc and I repaid that trust by ensuring the shop generated great footfall and attracted both designer label and high street donations. I recruited a fabulous volunteer window dresser and trained the volunteers how to merchandise, and I loved it when customers were surprised to find they were in a charity shop and not a boutique!
Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration during your career and why have you chosen that person?
Too many to choose from! Overall, it has to be the literally thousands of volunteers who give so much of their time to work in charity shops. Without them, the UK would not have the £120m raised for charities each year. Without them we would not be taking advantage of the enormous environmental benefits of reuse and recycling, nor the millions of clothes, books and household items that customers love to purchase every year.
Latterly, Mary Portas has been a huge inspiration. Highlighting very publicly how charity shops can be chic and a shopper’s store of choice was music to my ears from the moment I met her. My ambition has always been to challenge, change and improve the charity retail landscape; to create a desire in people to give great quality stock and to enjoy shopping and spending cash in charity shops. Mary gave so much of her own time and energy to all the projects we worked on and I loved being the charity partner in the great positive impact she had on charity retail.
You seem to be constantly pushing barriers and coming up with innovative ideas, what would you say were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
People, whether volunteer, shop manager or charity leaders, are usually the biggest challenge (plus the most rewarding part of what I do). Most of my innovative ideas haven’t required great financial investment, but have needed people to believe in them. I’ve had to help individuals and teams get over a fear, often a fear of change or fear of failure. I’ve needed to listen to their concerns and to respond effectively, to then build trust, and in return my ideas and plans are then heard. When teams get the idea, and work with it, they reap huge rewards. Hopefully, the next time, they will be less risk-averse and will understand that successful retail (commercial or charity) demands that your business must be forward thinking and innovative, offering the customer what they expect.
My mantra has always been, do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always got. I get the biggest buzz from seeing people’s confidence and excitement grow alongside their real engagement and involvement.
Some of your projects could be perceived as risky what would be your top tips for someone who is risk adverse?
I’d ask them to take a look at current and past leaders in the world of retail and business. None of them became successful by staying the same. People have to believe they personally can and want to achieve great results. But I’d also make sure the project was properly risk assessed, so that the opportunities for it to be a stunning success hugely outweighed the risk of any sort of failure.
The charity sector seems to be very competitive as there seem to be so many now; if that is the case how do you stay one step ahead?
Firstly, by trend-spotting: the team needs to know what’s creating waves across commercial retail in the UK and globally. More than ever, charities need to know what inspires and attracts individuals and communities to a brand or product, and how a charity retailer, large or small, make sense of that, making sure their charity stands out and reaps results in a crowded market place.
Secondly, one of my passions is partnership building. Cooperation across commercial and charity business can create huge benefits for both parties, and inspire both current and future customers and supporters. I really enjoy finding ways to bring diverse teams closer and seeing them create great results.
You were named Woman of the Year at the 2010 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards; did this have an effect on your working and personal life and if so what did it bring?
The award affected me more than I could ever have imagined! It gave me the platform to do what I’ve wanted to do for some time; to set up my own charity retail consultancy business. Knowing that my skills, experience and results were recognised by the everywoman panel of judges helped me believe I could go it alone, and I went on to set up The Charity Retail Consultancy. It’s been the best thing that could have happened. I’m working with commercially minded charities who want to find new ways and opportunities to improve their business. And winning such a prestigious award has helped me form new relationships with commercial businesses who want to look at how they can work alongside a charity, to help improve their corporate social responsibility whilst retaining and looking to improve profitability.
And in terms of my personal life? My children now call me the WOTY (woman of the year)!
Would you recommend other women in business to nominate for an everywoman in Retail Award?
Absolutely; primarily because the awards are recognised across the whole of the retail industry, and act as a reminder to individual women and to businesses that women make great leaders. Also, all of us involved in retail work so hard throughout the year, and whether winners or not, every one of the shortlisted nominees had such fun on the awards night, and it gave us a chance to feel great about our skills and achievements.
Do you know someone inspirational working in retail? Find out more about the Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards >>