Debra Barnes took a sneak peek behind the scenes at All Aboard

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Remember that nice little white cardigan that you bought from Zara on a whim? It still has the sales tag, but you’ll never wear it now and it’s too late to return it for a refund. It’s just taking up space in the wardrobe, so you put it in a plastic bag along with some other old clothes and when you finally remember you pop it in to a charity shop, such as All Aboard in Station Road, Edgware.

So what happens then?

All donations are taken into the back of the shop for sorting. Electrical items, such as toasters and lamps, are stored until the All Aboard PAT tester comes around to check them out and make sure they are safe to sell. Bric-a-brac is quickly priced up by assistant manager Gloria Olalla who, having been with All Aboard for 18 years now, knows exactly what price to put on to each item, which is then put out on the shop floor by one of the volunteers like Mike Hogg, who helps out three days a week. Store manager Pearl Moore says: “I’ll ‘Google’ anything that looks like it could have an antique or designer quality to make sure we don’t miss any hidden treasures.”

Clothing donations, like our little white cardigan, often arrive very creased from being stored at the bottom of a bag, but that’s not a problem as Rosa is also an expert with the
industrial clothes steamer (“we always wear cotton gloves to stop us getting burnt”), which can transform a rumpled rag into a creaseless cardi in seconds and it’s quickly out onto the appropriate rail on the shop floor – £3, £5 or £8, unless, of course, it belongs to the Absolutely Fabulous collection, which has seen Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry donations in the past, the likes of which command a higher price tag.

Pearl encourages anyone who brings in donations to sign up for Gift Aid – after all, that means an additional 25 percent of income from the Inland Revenue once an item is sold, not an insignificant amount.

All items donated with Gift Aid are labelled with a barcode sticker, which is scanned when the item is sold so that All Aboard will email the donor quarterly to let them know how much has been raised from their donations. “Some donors might wonder why we email them but it’s a legal obligation,” Pearl explains. “We also have to give donors the right to ask for the money back at that point – fortunately no-one ever does.”

“As the largest chain of charity shops in the Jewish community, All Aboard depends on the generosity of its donors and the many thousands of people who shop with us each year,” says Alan Haynes, who took over as chief executive officer in January. “Without their ongoing support, we would not be able to help those who really need it”.

ON A NEED TO KNOW BASIS

  • Number of items sold in the shops in 2015: approx. 500,000
  • Shop revenue generated in 2015: more than £2,000,000
  • Number of shop volunteers: 110 currently (more always needed)
  • Number of shop donors signed up for Gift Aid: to date 13,000