Innovation in Charity Retailing

Mercy in Action was recently ‘Highly Commended’ for the ‘Innovation in Charity Retailing Award‘ from the Charity Retail Association. This was in recognition of Mercy in Action’s Action Creation initiative, and our Livelihood Projects. Below is a bit more information about this exciting new venture!


Action Creation

With the opening of a new boutique charity shop in October 2012, Mercy in Action launched its ‘Action Creation’ initiative. This project was started to build relationships with local artists in the communities around our shops, to help break the traditional charity shop stereotype, to attract a new demographic into our shops, and ultimately to make more funds for our projects with street children in the Philippines. On all these aims, it has been incredibly successful!

The collaboration with local artists has been particularly positive, with several artists selling their products in Mercy in Action charity shops, donating between 30-50% of sales. Rachel Lovatt was one artist involved. She ran a vintage collage workshop and designed the Christmas window, which caused lots of turned heads on the high street, and attracted in large numbers of new shoppers for the holiday season. She said, ‘I admire the positive work Mercy in Action do, and I am inspired by their reinvention of the charity shop image. Mercy in Action boutiques are a perfect place for local artists and makers to exhibit their products while contributing to an amazing cause.’ These workshops and events not only raise money for our projects, but also produce keen shoppers and supporters, and have the potential of being frequent events. These evenings will continue to draw in new artists who will get involved with the charity, as well as attracting local residents to the shop and to the charity as a whole.

The Action Creation initiative is also a ‘green’ venture. On several occasions, rags have been given to local creative volunteers who have transformed them into gorgeous, saleable clothes. On one occasion, beautiful dresses for little girls were created out of scraps of material and sold on the launch night of the new shop. Volunteers also took old rags and upcycled them by dip dying in bleach, and adding beading and detail. In these cases, 100% of the profits were kept by Mercy in Action, therefore turning virtually worthless rags into highly profitable stock.

Action Creation isn’t just a UK based initiative. In the Philippines women that Mercy in Action work with in slum areas make bunting that is then sold in our charity shops in the UK. The women are paid a good wage and are able to work at home so they can continue to look after their children. The sewing machines they use have been donated and sent to the Philippines on annual containers. For more information about our livelihood projects click here. Here are a few photos of the bunting that is available in selected Mercy in Action shops:

Light the bbq, pour the Pimms and soak up the last few days of summer by decorating with this lovely Royal summer bunting.
Or perhaps you are already looking forward to the golden leaves falling. Get the autumnal feeling with this gorgeous owl bunting.

It is hoped that ‘Action Creation’ can be an umbrella label for a vast range of creative initiatives in the future, both in the UK and the Philippines. While only in the early stages it has already been hugely successful at attracting more supporters, raising more funds, building relationships and refreshing the image of charity retail. We look forward to the growth of this project in the coming years.

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