People in Orkney love a bargain. And when there are so many fantastically well-stocked charity shops across the islands, who can blame them!
For the CLAN Cancer Support charity on Kirkwall’s Victoria Street, their shop is at the heart of everything they do. ‘It’s really the face of the charity in Orkney, and quite often acts as the first point of contact for people who are coming in and hoping to speak to someone,’ said Karen Scott, Manager of the Orkney branch.
The charity offers a support and advice centre for anyone affected by cancer, with trained volunteers on hand to help them through their cancer journey. ‘We take the lead from the clients and try to respond to what they would like and need,’ said Karen. ‘It’s as simple as that, and without the shop, we wouldn’t be able to offer anywhere near as much as we do.’
It’s a bustling place. Customers come from across Orkney for a browse inside, but during the summer months there is a definite rise in numbers through the door, and that growth coincides with the visit of Orkney’s cruise ships.
‘The shop is extremely busy during the summer. Whilst the big Orkney brands like Judith Glue, Hume Sweet Hume and Sheila Fleet see many cruise ship passengers, we get the crew members,’ said Karen. ‘They like to come in and grab a bargain, usually things like bedding, jeans and handbags. It really is a huge market for us and helps us fund the rest of our activities and support services.’
Those services include health walks, arts and crafts, meditation, writing workshops, yoga, complementary therapies and other aspects, including training of volunteers, the maintenance of the beautiful garden at the back of the building and everything that makes CLAN in Orkney such a warm and welcoming place. But none of that can happen without the financial support the shop brings.
Across the entire organisation they take in around 26% of the charity’s income – here in Orkney it’s much more than that. The shop has been running for nine years and has seen a huge increase in profits. They rose by £8k in 2015 and by £11k again last year, providing funding that goes a long way to helping the charity maintain the huge range of important services it provides.
The impact of the cruise ship customer can’t be overestimated, and as well as the crew members, occasional groups of passengers make an appearance too. Some buy Orkney souvenirs, others items including tea-sets. When the weather is wet, many pick up second-hand umbrellas or rain jackets so they can stay dry when seeing the Kirkwall sights. The shop responds to this kind of demand by stockpiling items throughout the winter, earmarking goods that might be attractive to the shoppers coming off the cruise ships.
‘We have this fantastic, constantly changing level of stock and we have no control over what comes in,’ said Karen. ‘We do try to make sure that anything obvious is kept for the summer when we know there will be visitors looking for them. It’s amazing the range of items they can buy from us!’
The new faces also bring a vibrancy to the shop. The volunteers enjoy speaking to the crew members and the passengers, learning where they’re from and why they came to Orkney. According to Karen, the crew are also keen to find out more about the islands.
‘They’re just so friendly and good humoured, and they’re always interested in speaking to the volunteers. We used to wonder how they knew about us, and then we heard that the information about the charity shops in each port is shared between different crews and different ships. We’re delighted to be included on that list!’
If being on that list means that CLAN can continue to provide the incredible level of support it does to people affected by cancer across Orkney, then the cruise ship visitors will always be welcome through the shop door.