Blog: A long time ago in a charity shop not so far away…

Marty Walsh
Marty Walsh

“I don’t know how Shelter Scotland get it so right!”

It’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot over the years managing Shelter Scotland shops. Customers are continually impressed with the design of our shops – the stock, the vision, the teams and the atmosphere. What makes us stand out? Well it’s a long story – probably an entirely separate blog entry – but most definitely the first point of contact that the general public has with our shops that really gets their attention is our window displays.

The window of the shop I manage in Tollcross is like a blank canvas on the main road – almost the perfect platform on which to communicate. Going back, we’ve had dolls houses and cityscapes, festival mannequins with reams of ribbons, puppets suspended from the roof and big eye-catching displays all geared towards getting volunteers, selling donations and advertising Shelter Scotland.

However, we reserve our most extravagant displays for our Christmas windows.

Generating profit for the great work that Shelter Scotland does through selling our amazing Christmas cards is really important, and it’s always good to approach this in an inventive way. We’ve traditionally taken a lead from the big up market designer houses for our Christmas windows. We make them bold, ornate and grandiose, we give them panache and sparkle – the public loves to see creativity! And this year our Christmas window is a force to be reckoned with…

We’ve been collecting props and measuring all the nooks and crannies since March for this year’s Christmas window (from an idea that actually came before 2014’s display was even launched!). We’ve designed and executed a huge Star Wars display – right in time for the release of a brand new Star Wars movie. How does this fit with selling Christmas cards? Well, our angle is that Princess Leia has hidden prizes within selected packs of our cards – and these have all been donated by local businesses. We’ve got hampers and cinema memberships, vouchers and meals, arts and crafts courses and coffee dates… all donated by the wonderful businesses from the local Tollcross galaxy.

The Tollcross shop window
The Tollcross shop window

Designing such an ambitious event was challenging but pitching to the local businesses was easy – everyone was eager to listen and to help Shelter Scotland. The general response was also very positive because what we were suggesting was a real local venture. In addition to Shelter Scotland there are many shopping gems to find in Tollcross, and everyone is always keen to get together and improve trading conditions in the area.

Since the windows launch the response from the public has been incredible.

We’ve seen little kids jumping up and down and pointing, we’ve seen selfie sticks out, we’ve had people coming in to give thumbs up, and we’ve really helped to focus attention on the big white and red sign above the door that people know and love: Shelter Scotland.

It’s the charity that Edinburgh locals (both Scottish and foreign) always come back to and always believe is done ‘so right’. And a lot of this has to do with where the Shelter Scotland shops stand in their community. Window events are a key part of this collaboration and exposure, and they last long in the public’s memory. It’s not just the flagship in Stockbridge or the chic melting pot of Tollcross that is so engaged with the community but all our shops throughout Scotland.

Wherever you are, support your local Shelter Scotland shop this Christmas and into the New Year We have so much to do in tackling bad housing and homelessness but with your help the force will be with us, always….

  • Marty Walsh is the community manager at Shelter Scotland in Tollcross.
  • @shelterscotland

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