Nnenna Anyanwu, chief executive of Citizens Advice Enfield, on the re-opening of its charity shops
Citizens Advice Enfield’s two charity shops in Palmers Green re-opened for customers last month.
Our charity shops play a vital role in generating much-needed income to support the work of the charity. As a key service, our core work has continued throughout this pandemic, to support the needs of local Enfield residents going through challenges – with some of them very vulnerable.
In the first month of the lockdown we helped 675 clients with their problems. To enable us keep the service running, we adapted the way that we interact with our clients, purchasing additional IT equipment and mobile phones so that our advisers could work from the safety of their own homes.
Many of our residents had employment and housing problems during this time. As thousands of people lost their jobs or self-employment income, we helped them to claim Universal Credit and understand how to access government support. We have also helped people who would have been made homeless to remain in their homes. Nationally, Citizens Advice has helped 380,000 clients with their problems over the past three months.
The Citizens Advice Enfield charity shops had of course been closed since March, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But we were excited to re-open the stores after the government confirmed that non-essential retailers were allowed to re-open. This has been an incredibly challenging time for all shops on the high street and, with high fixed costs in rent and staff salaries, it has been very difficult to make ends meet. Sadly, it could be years before we recover from this pandemic.
We are doing everything we can to ensure the safety for our customers. We have purchased the required PPE for staff and enforced social distancing as necessary. Cleaning of surfaces, doors and equipment will be done regularly throughout the day. Donated goods are being isolated for 72 hours, then inspected and cleaned thoroughly before going on display. Fitting rooms will be closed for health and safety reasons – our returns policy has been amended to reflect this.
We want to make sure our customers know that the goods we sell are safe and virus free, in order to allay any concerns our customers may have. Our cleanliness policies will be under constant review.
On the plus side, we have received many donations in recent weeks. This is the result, it seems, of people using the lockdown as an opportunity to ‘spring clean’ their houses. But the need to quarantine all items for 72 hours means we have very limited space to accommodate more donations at this time.
We are very aware that with many people still not working and the furlough scheme being phased out, many of our Enfield residents who are already on a low income may not be able to afford new clothes. Our shops are here to help, as we sell excellent quality pre-owned clothing and other goods.
We are proud to be part of the Enfield community and to be much loved by the residents. We look forward to welcoming shoppers back to our shops at 370 Green Lanes (opposite The Fox pub) and at 40 Green Lanes, just south of the North Circular.
Antonia Oberoi, the senior manager of Citizens Advice Enfield’s charity shops, says: “We have seen great examples of kindness, togetherness and community spirit over the past few months, and Citizens Advice Enfield thank you all for your continued support.”