DOUBLE celebrations are taking place today (Wednesday) at the Cancer Research UK Charity Shop in Enniskillen.
The shop opened its doors on Townhall Street on May 25th 1996 when the then Miss UK Shauna Gunn brought a touch of glamour to the event. In the first few hours of trading, the store’s tills were ringing non-stop, collecting £1,726 in just six hours. By the end of the week, the shop had broken all UK records with a staggering £4,000 plus turnover.
Since then, the shop has bagged £1.8 million for the charity and £30,000 in gift aid over the past three years. On top of that, staff have scooped endless awards down the years at both Northern Ireland and UK level.
Pearl Priddey has been the manager of the shop from day one and is also marking a 20 year milestone this week. After 13 years in catering and as a leader with Scouts and Guides in Kesh, Pearl’s love for charity work led to her being approached to run the store.
“I knew that it was the job for me and together with the late Heather McMillan, my first area manager, we set it all up and honestly it only seems like yesterday. A few weeks later I was struggling with all the paperwork and wondering if I had done the right thing but eventually it all fell into place.”
Down the years, Pearl and her team have faced many challenges, not least the recession and loss of shoppers from the Republic due to exchange rates.
“When the Southern shoppers were descending on the town a few years ago, that’s when we were making our money. Thankfully they are slowing but surely coming back.”
Since the store opened, Pearl has had direct experience of cancer within her own family.
“When people used to come in telling me their stories of being touched by cancer whether it was their family or friends, I used to think how terrible it was and then go home and switch off. Then my husband was diagnosed ten years ago and the reality kicked in. I finally understood what people were going through. Now my heart goes out to others because I know what it’s like to go through cancer whereas before it was just someone else’s story.”
Pearl and her staff are now processing three times the amount of stock compared with 20 years ago.
“When we started out we were dealing with 400 items a week and this now up to 1,200 so keeping stock turned over is a challenge. It makes it less enjoyable now as you can hardly get time to draw breath whereas in the early days it was much more laid back. It has been hard work and the shop has become my second home. I wouldn’t have had it any other way and it’s thanks to all those who have supported us since 1996 in many different ways.”
Posted: 1:00 pm May 25, 2016