I get a real kick out of business. I love seeing the impact that good businesses can have on the lives of individuals. I’m also an avid reader of business books and am constantly looking for good ideas and learning from others. So I know it’s “not everyone’s’ cup of tea” but I was taken with a series on BBC2 that is also available on the BBC iPlayer. In summary, retail expert Mary Portas has taken on the world of charity shops. Now I’m not a great shopper, so the prospect of wading through mountains of disorganised stuff to find a hidden treasure is about as appealing as a day trip to Croydon. Yet the idea of supporting good causes by giving items that I no longer need or want that someone else can make use of resounds with me.

Mary has some entertaining challenges – dealing with employers, employees, volunteers and customers – and shares some great insights about the changing environment of retail. The obvious (?) point being that there is certainly a gap in the market for a good charity shop, perhaps better termed as a second-hand shop for a wider audience. She rightly challenges the problem for those that have “expensive taste”, who feel let down by the charity shop sector who, whilst grateful, fail to properly value (… or should that be price?) items. The killer point being – why donate a £900 designer bag if it will be unwittingly be sold for £5, perhaps to someone that cannot tell the difference between Primark and Versace. The only way to successfully encourage such donations is to correctly price them and as a consequence restructure the shopping experience itself. As you may imagine, the challenge is largely due to the ingrained thinking. Similarly, Mary challenges us all to re-examine our consumer lifestyles, to regularly purge our homes of things we simply don’t use within a year and to give quality not simply cast off junk.

Mary has some great ideas and pin-point observations. If successful, she will change the face and content of charity shops around the country, perhaps even our consumer behaviour. She faces many struggles at the coalface, of the inability or reluctance to cope with change – a microcosm of our own resistance to all that is going on around us. So I look forward to seeing how she progresses with her Orpington shop.

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