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Bournemouth goes retro for the Red Cross

28 May 2009

Bournemouth University Red Cross ShopBRCThe Red Cross retro boutique at Bournemouth University has taken the college by storm since its launch last May. The funky Red Cross store opens its doors at the student union once a month during term time and students come in droves for its unusual clothes, fancy dress ideas, games, hats and accessories.

Second year student Gaynor said: “It’s been a total hit – we raise about £250 each time we open and there’s always such a buzz. We lay out the stock on the tables and rails, pop some background music on, and we even have a fitting room area with a big mirror in the middle. There’s always a big crowd trying on their finds, and giving each other tips and compliments."

She added: “The room we use is on the way to the library, so the excitement ends up diverting a lot of the students who were on their way to get their head down and do some work!”

Inspired over a lunch hour

The idea for the boutique came when Gaynor and her team were working at the nearby Bournemouth School for Girls, running humanitarian education lessons. 

She said: “Having found out about the work of the Red Cross, the girls really wanted to raise some money for us so they came up with the idea of starting a Red Cross shop in a classroom during lunchtime.

"It was an instant hit and they had students queuing throughout the whole lunch hour to get in. Their free chocolate brownies probably contributed to their success too.” The success at the school prompted Gaynor and her team to take it to the university and they haven’t looked back since.

Gaynor continued: “Strategically, it’s also a great way of integrating retail with youth and schools, one of the cross-cutting themes. And it’s so easy to set up.

"A group of students organise the whole thing. They book the room, then organise a day where they visit the Red Cross charity shop in the centre of Bournemouth. 

"They have a great time picking out the bits they think will sell – they’ve even given the volunteers there a mood board so during the week they can look out for the kind of things they need and put them aside. 

"When a sale is planned, they’ll arrange for the shop driver to come and deliver to the university.”

Something for everyone

Gaynor continued: "We spread the word mainly through Facebook – the group has about 300 members and we send them a message a few days before each sale. The room we use also has a nice big window on one side so we put up a massive sign. The student radio station Nerve always gives us a mention and in the past we’ve sent out flyers, too. Apart from that, it’s the buzz that attracts passersby!

"I suppose its success is also down to the fact that the stock is so stylish. The group of students who organise it have a really good eye for what they think will sell. We had a pair of blue cowboy boots the other day which caused quite a stir, and things I wouldn’t have thought of are really popular – like Jackie annuals!”

The boutique isn’t just a place for girls seeking retail therapy. “The guys have really got into it too. They look for things like outrageous ties and cufflinks,” Gaynor explained.

“It’s a great form of recycling so it’s very eco-friendly, but it’s also really economical for students on a budget. I often see students spending £20 or £30 a time – at first I wondered how they could afford it, but with most of them leaving with two or three bags, it’s fantastic value for money.

"It gets particularly busy at the start of each term, just after the student loan cheques have come through!”

Read more about our charity shops

Find out how to volunteer in a Red Cross charity shop