Everyone in retail is facing the question of how to maintain and also grow retail revenue in these uncertain times. In particular, our Charity Retail customers are constantly looking for new ways to generate and conserve income streams to support the great work they do.

There are some really innovative ideas coming to light turning the challenges of the new retail environment into a positive and winning experience as well as a great shopping experience for customers.  We thought we’d share some ideas for you to build upon and find ways to grow in the new normal.

Growing footfall in the new normal

The first thought with the new Social Distancing guidelines is the lack of footfall into the stores.  But there are real positives to this!  Less customers means you can really concentrate on those customers. Don’t ‘oversell’ but just take an interest, and make them feel wanted and valued.  Remember pieces of information they share with you and  make sure you ask about it next time they visit. Done sensitively, customers will really value this interest.

Shift style shopping

Another way to give your customers a real “boutique” shopping time is to extend opening hours by an hour or two with a shift arrangement.  You could offer customers to ‘book’ a shopping time early or late.  This would enable those that are currently working to visit the high street in the evening. Remember, if you’re one of the only shops who offers a unique and flexible experience, they will remember you and are much more likely to return!

Shifting Talent

It may be an obvious statement, but could you manage with less staff on the shop floor? It’s not just a case of making redundancies, but rather shifting talent across multiple stores, or even into a different area of the business whose capacity is stretched.  Why not ask your staff if there is another area in the business that they’ve always fancied joining, you may never know what will come out of the woodwork

Rewarding Retail

Your regular customers are the ones who will shout about your brand on social media and share positive vibes about the work you’re doing.  Reward them well and what better way to do this by offering VIP incentives?  These could be something like offering 3 for 2 or 10% off over £XX spend.  You could offer them the incentive with the condition that they visit at a ‘quiet time’ :)

Inspiring window displays

Make your customers want to step through your doors by improving your visual merchandising in your window displays!  It would be great to make your windows relevant to today’s world, so think Rainbows, NHS support, and share inspirational messages of hope!

Vertical Merchandising

Encourage link sales by utilising vertical merchandising!  Why not place colour coordinating shoes on top of your gondolas, or have floor to ceiling displays of items like cushions, throws & linen, or cutlery, tea cups & serve ware?  If they are looking for that item that will finish their collection, it’s likely they may be tempted to buy more than one!

Christmas comes early

RSPCA Christmas Window Display

RSPCA Christmas Window Display, one of our winners from our 2019 Charity Window Competition

Why not encourage customers to do a bit of early Christmas shopping now, while the shops are quiet?  You could play on the fact that there will be greater choice, and they won’t suffer from inflated pricing, especially during this economic hardship.  It will also help them to spread the costs across months instead of major outlay during the last few months of the year.

The pavement is your playground

Could you (space permitting) play with some creative ideas on the area outside your shop?  Think A frames, chalkboards, pavement signs, or maybe some stickers to draw the eye to your store front?  The pavement is your playground.  Make it an extension of your visual merchandising display! And a safe place for social distancing too!

Remember to make the most of free resources too to get hints and tips on how to create exciting displays  that are topical or on trend. Check out these visual merchandising guides you can find here.

Hopefully this has planted some seeds of imagination which you can adapt & use in your particular circumstances. Put one or two of these into practice & you will almost certainly find that your average transaction value will increase to offset the reduction in customer density.

And best of luck with the new normal!

Get in touch to find out more

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It’s the most important 3 months in the retail calendar, the golden quarter – your most lucrative time of year. Buying customers through the door of your shop in the run up to Christmas is crucial for your Charity in terms of raising much needed funds for the next year ahead. How your window looks will have the greatest impact on reaching your sales targets. Visual merchandising has never been so important and if your charity has attended one of our training days,  you already know what a difference it can make. We would love to see you put that training into practice as we’re on the search for the best dressed charity window of 2019!

#acopiabestdressed this Christmas!

Eden Valley's Light Up A Life Window

Eden Valley’s Light Up A Life Window

We want to recognise the amazing work by staff and volunteers that goes into planning Charity Christmas window displays right across the UK. It’s important to tell your story especially during the festive season, whilst having to work on a tight budget no doubt!! Making the most of donated items as well as bringing imagination and creativity to your shop windows with your Christmas themes isn’t easy. Yet we were overwhelmed with entries last year and so impressed and  the ingenious ways in which you all brought Christmas to life. Who can forget Cats Protection’s “live” window of Santa’s knitting!

Do you also remember our stunning winning window from Devon Air Ambulance Trust scooped the top prize with their amazing entry submitted by Kim Veasey and the team at the Dartmouth Vintage shop? Second prize went to Kathy Fisher and the team at Eden Valley Hospice with their beautiful ‘Light Up A Life’ window. We had so many incredible entries, we had to increase the number of prizes! These went to: St Barnabas in Uckfield, Action Cancer in Coleraine, Rennie Grove in Berkhamstead, Age Concern in Leyland, Barnardo’s Vintage, Branching Out, Children’s Society in Shirley, Cat’s Protection in Bridlington, Shelter in Bromwich, Childern’s Society Shoreham On Sea, St Helena Colchester, Support Dogs Grassington, Children’s Society Ashington, and Children’s Society St Albans. We really hope you all enter again this year!

The People’s Vote!

Cat's Protection Knitting Santa!

Cat’s Protection Knitting Santa!

For 2019, we are adding a new component to the competition with a People’s Vote. We will still be looking for our top three best charity windows, but we will also be giving you an additional opportunity to win another fabulous prize for your shop, as voted by your local community! It’s a lovely way for your customers to get involved this Christmas.

Competition entry opens on the 16th of October and full details will be available on the day so watch this space! Follow our hashtag #acopiabestdressed and make sure you’re ready! If you enter early, your shop will have more time to accrue the People’s Vote!

It’s your chance to shine this golden quarter and we can’t wait to see what you all come up with this year!

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Everyday we see images of our impact on the environment. Our continued consumption of the world’s resources as well as how we dispose of Single Use Plastics is a concern for everyone. So how can we make a difference to how we shop, consume and get rid of what we don’t need anymore? How can we take an everyday need, such as clothing, and make our shopping habits more sustainable?  When you consider it takes over 2,000 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans* is it time to re-think  how and where we shop?  The answer is on every high street – the local charity shop!

Charity retail – shopping for good

Sorting donations

Sorting donations

On average, each charity shop diverts around 29 tonnes** of textiles away from landfill. The Charity Retail Association estimate that there are over 11,000 charity shops in the UK. Collectively, they are having a hugely positive impact on our environment. When some shops on the high street are struggling, the charity shop is not just surviving – it’s thriving! With an estimated income of over £270 million raised from retail shops, it’s important to remember that this is money destined for the local hospice, valuable research and as well as supporting society’s most vulnerable. But more than this, the Charity shop is bringing together communities on a local level, as well as changing the way we think nationally. Is it time for a paradigm shift on our preconceptions?

Saying “No to New” and fast fashion!

Looking for bargains

Looking for second hand bargains

This month we have seen Oxfam’s Second hand September, encouraging people to think again about the fashion they are buying and to say No to New for 30 days. More than two tonnes of new clothes are bought every minute in the UK. Oxfam calculated if everyone in the UK took part in Second Hand September the UK would save the same amount of emissions as flying a plane around the world 900 times. The Charity Hubbub discovered that 41% of all 18-25 year olds feel pressure to wear a different outfit every time they go out.  According to Fashion United UK, 50% of the clothing in our wardrobes is not re-worn. Onepoll showed us that we don’t even wear 80% of the new fashion we buy! Lee Lucas from the Fashion Retail Academy said “Recycling clothes is not only good for the consumer who can purchase clothes more affordably but also massively reduces the environmental impact of our clothes and lessons our personal fashion footprint”

Retail giants such as Asda are also recognising the damage of fast fashion on the environment by launching initiatives like Re-Loved.  It is clear the whole fashion landscape is starting to change, and it all started in the local charity shop first!


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* source from Curiosity.com

** source from the Charity Retail Association

We’re looking for the best dressed charity Christmas window of 2018! It’s your opportunity to win £250 of visual merchandising equipment for your store.

As you know, your shop window has the greatest influence in attracting shoppers into your shop so you will have been busy planning your display to make the most of November and December to raise as much money as possible for your cause.

Open to all UK charities and hospices, we would love to see how innovative and ingenious you have been in creating your festive themed windows for 2018.

Charity Christmas Window

This will be your busiest and no doubt the most lucrative time of the year for your shop. You will be competing hard against other big brands on the high street who have considerably larger budgets.  Your shop window will play a massive part in encouraging footfall and inspiring people to come inside. Challenging pre-conceptions of charity shops will also be high on your agenda and Christmas is the perfect opportunity to reach a new demographic for example.

Competition details!

In the judging, we will pay special attention to:

  1. Innovative use of recycling and re-purposing items as props to display your donated products
  2. How your window tells a story
  3. Use of colour

Our winner will receive £250 to spend on Visual Merchandising equipment from Acopia for your store:

Crates and Christmas decorations

Looking festive!

Display ladder

From our Street 76 range

Collection of coloured wooden crates

Great for display!









Female mannequin christmas shop display

Chestnut Tree House Christmas Window

To enter our competition – just send an email letting us know all about the idea behind your theme this year and include up to 5 photographs of your shop window to marketing@acopia.co.uk Please submit your entry to us by 12th December 2018.

Our very own Visual Merchandising Trainer, Karen Murray (who has worked with brands such as Selfridges, Marks and Spencer, Gap) will select the winner who will be announced on the 20th of December.

If you would like to take your Visual Merchandising to the next level in 2019, why not get in touch with us at marketing@acopia.co.uk to find out more about our FREE training day!

We know you’ll be excited to get involved so please feel free to share and tag your entries with  #acopiabestdressed

Good luck and we look forward to seeing your photographs!

If you would like to find out about your local Visual Merchandising Training with Acopia – get in touch here:

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Main Image: British Red Cross


Attracting customers through the door on the busy high street is more competitive than ever. With community street events, pop-ups and markets all vying for a stake in the shopper’s wallet, the power of visual merchandising becomes the retailer’s hero in the fight for footfall. When visual merchandising is done well, it creates awareness and can increase brand loyalty, but firstly – it needs to inspire and engage. The shop window needs to work harder, tell a story better and convert sales faster.

Visual merchandising for charity shops

Our goal has always been to establish meaningful partnerships that allow us to support growth and returns on investment. We felt that by providing FREE support for a sector we serve, specifically Charity Retail, would help shops in the heart of communities to gain better local traction.

Charities receiving Visual Merchandising training

Visual Merchandising Training at Acopia

Fun learning with other charities

We’ve opened our doors and invited charities to join us to learn the principles of VM such as how to make better displays with unpredictable donated stock, learn about positioning for impulse purchases, improved space planning, customer service – and loads more. It’s also a great networking opportunity to come along and share and swap ideas with other fellow charities.  For a recent workshop we hosted, we were joined by charities QEF, Naomi House, Haven House, St Christopher’s and St Wilfred’s who all put their new found talents to the test by creating some brilliant displays using stock we had sourced – all from local charity shops!

If you feel like joining us for the day to learn some new skills to take back to your shops – just get in touch using the form below, telling us a little bit more about you and your charity!


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Pop-ups have become a permanent feature in the retail industry. They are the answer to bridging the gap between the online store to a presence on the high street. Capturing the unique concept of the transitory – the proposition behind the pop-up is all about excitement, the unexpected and dramatic exteriors. Few could forget the now iconic Adidas trainer pop up and established as well as emerging brands are using this approach to retail to connect with new and existing audiences. Well known brands such as Superdry, Amazon, Yves Saint Laurant, Lego and Mercedes Benz have all embraced this cultural shift towards creating a more personal and exclusive experience. The high impact – short term philosophy is shaking up retail markets globally.

Here today, gone tomorrow

For many online retailers, the pop up provides an exciting and relatively low cost way for helping online retailers explore the high street. It’s a unique opportunity to be able to reach their audience on a much more personal basis and connect with their customer base in a totally new way. Tapping into new audiences with a physical presence empowers brands to engage not only their existing advocates but to create new ones too. This way of creating new and meaningful relationships at a deeper level has proven irresistible for both established and emerging brands.

With the back drop of the transitory nature of the pop-up – it has proven irresistible to customers too. The concept based on excitement and exclusivity, delivering a one-off experience is incredibly powerful and is a huge catalyst in driving footfall. The ‘fear of missing out’ is a great lever that drives customers  – which makes the pop-up perfect!

Pop-up goes from strength to strength

An example of a pop-up shop in London's Boxpark

Pop Up Retail

With the pop-up economy worth over £2.3 billion, it is one of the largest areas of growth in UK retail. There are more than 10,500 pop-up shops in the UK employing more than 26,000 people. 10% of retailers plan to deliver a pop-up experience as part of their retail and marketing strategy in the next 5 years. Due to their flexible nature, it’s the perfect way for brands to test new markets, new products and new locations. New ideas and new markets are the life blood of retail.

London seems to be at the epicentre of the Pop-Up Revolution. Take Boxpark in Shoreditch for example – shipping containers play host to retailers such as Nike who run brand sponsored events from there, attracting huge local support. Charity retailer Oxfam had a pop-up there in 2017 for Halloween selling brand pieces inspired by Victoriana and Gothic fashion. The pop-up philosophy allows the retailer to take creative risks, stepping outside their usual business model.

Creating an experience

Whether you’re an established brand or have a niche following – harnessing this experiential form of marketing creates a buzz and a unique and memorable shopping experience.  At Acopia, we have helped many brands do just that by supporting their ambitions of pop-up retailing. If you would like to know more about the full fit-out service we offer or want to find out more about our full range of shop-fit displays and consumables, just get in touch using the form below and let us know more about your retail vision!


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Would shoppers buy their Christmas or birthday presents from a charity shop? It’s a question that many may have not have considered before. Where a few years ago the answer may have been a definite “no”, today things have changed and the public’s perception of charity shops is also changing.

With concern about the environment and with the spotlight on re-purposing and recycling, charities play a huge roll in protecting our planet. Every donation to a charity shop helps with reducing carbon emissions, around 6.9 million tons a year, as well as resulting in less waste. Last year, charity shops prevented 323,000 tonnes of textiles going to landfill. So not only is shopping at the local charity store great for the pocket, it’s great for the planet too! Charity shops raise more than £270 million a year for good causes across the UK and abroad, as well as providing over 23,000 jobs.  The charity retail sector has more than 230,000 volunteers, the largest single group in the country. Pretty amazing statistics!

Expect the unexpected

Step inside a charity shop today and the difference is clear. A collection of eclectic goodies probably displayed like a modern high street shop with modern interiors. Some specialise in vintage clothing, antiques, furniture or pre-loved wedding dresses for example.  It’s like entering an Aladin’s cave of discovery of hidden gems! Some Charity stores have completely destroyed the preconceptions of what a charity store should look like. Take a look at these stunning examples – inviting, exciting, unique and incredibly creative. All are setting benchmarks and receiving awards on the charity scene.


FARA charity shop


Cancer Research


Mary Portas Living & Giving Shop











Posh Pop-Up

Recently Harrods unveiled their luxury charity pop-up store, raising money for the NSPCC with pre-owned designer items. Located on Sloane Street and named Fashion Re-told, it opened for a month with the aim to compete with the likes of Mulberry, Loewe, and Paul Smith for a fraction of the price. The concept for the decor was to be completely Instragrammable, perfect for unique photo opportunities, encouraging shoppers to share their experiences. It’s something that will no doubt be followed by other design houses and big brands who recognise the value of shopping for good.




The right shopfittings

Street 76

Street 76

The industrial style is most definitely en vogue! Many charity shops are reflecting mainstream retail by adopting these trends. Industrial looking baskets and display cages are perfect for displaying the mix of donated items. Shelving that can be moved as quickly as your stock changes is also ideal.

Talk to your retail supplier about their shopfittings to see how you can work together to create that mainstream retail look or boutique feel for your charity shop.


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Statistics from the Charity Retail Association

You may have been following progress on our latest shop-fit in Redhill for our client St Catherine’s Hospice. The 27th of April was the culmination of months of hard work and planning, the new shop in Redhill opened its doors to the community for the first time. Acopia had been involved right from the start with the fit-out from an initial site survey – all the way through to the finishing touches a few days before opening. The shop looked immaculate for the open day!

This was quite an extensive renovation and our Fit-Out team were on site for a few weeks. The team started by removing the existing shop furnishings and counters, as well as removing walls and flooring. The vision was to create a bright, bold and airy environment with lots of space for customers to move easily around the shop. It was key the look remained uncluttered with products displayed on smart and modern fittings.

Renovation in progress!

Renovation in progress!

Delicious St Catherine's Hospice cupcakes - we had a few of those!

Delicious St Catherine’s Hospice cupcakes – we had a few of those!

The wonderful team at Redhill

The wonderful team at Redhill

The shop started to take shape with new spaces created such as a new modern kitchen bespoke donation sorting area. New flooring was laid, new walls installed and new electrics run. We then highlighted some of the walls with St Catherine’s Hospice trademark brand colour – their wonderful bright and cheerful orange. We installed a modern twin slot system which worked very well in the space and with the diverse nature of donated products.

Wayne Stepney, Retail Manager at St Catherine's Hospice with Acopian Account Director Keith Gilbert.

Wayne Stepney, Retail Manager at St Catherine’s Hospice, with Acopian Account Director Keith Gilbert.

The first transaction through the till!

The first transaction through the till!

With eager customers waiting outside, the doors opened and the shop was was inundated with shoppers keen to support their local hospice. There was a queue at the till within minutes which was a very proud moment for Wayne Stepney, Retail Development Manager, and his team to see after the long months of planning.

Acopia were thrilled to not only complete the shop-fit but to also be invited to the opening itself. We are delighted to hear that the shop had a very successful first weekend. We know from our clients that our shop fits deliver great return on investment and we shall be returning very soon to catch up with the wonderful team at Redhill.

If you would like to talk to us about your next shop-fit, just call us on 0845 075 6111 and we would be delighted to chat to you.


Our goal at Acopia has always been to look at procurement and process from our client’s side of the table and how we can establish meaningful partnerships that allow us to support their growth and return on investment. Looking to add value and constantly anticipate our customer’s needs really sets us apart. When focusing on the Charity Retail Sector, we felt that by introducing some free support would really help shops gain traction in their communities. Providing a working knowledge of Visual Merchandising could really help to transform retail spaces to encourage more footfall and purchases.

Getting it right

We are very lucky to be invited to the Hospice UK Retail Steering Group to launch the idea and gain feedback from the group to help tailor the training. It was important to us that the training was to be relevant, provide solutions – as well as being enjoyable! The idea was greeted very enthusiastically by the group and we were delighted to be able to provide a much needed service and collaborative support.

The training was held at our Head Office in sunny Bognor Regis! We had representatives from 8 Charities attend the training which examined the principles of Visual Merchandising such as how to create an impactful window, thinking about the customer journey around the store, positioning products for impulse purchases, space planning, colour blocking – and loads more! It was also a great networking opportunity as attendees were able to discuss and swap new ideas with fellow charities.

Our group were keen to explore how the basic principles could be applied to their own retail spaces and were able to take time with our trainer to discuss specific in-store challenges and look at planning their space better.

Learning into practice

Well dressed mannequins!

The winning table top display! Tables from our Street 76 display Range

Our Street 76 Display Ladder









The afternoon was dedicated to putting it all into practice! The group had lots fun diving into our products from our Street 76 display range and the props (all from local charities!) to create table top displays and dress mannequins. We were keen to replicate the typical products that Charities receive everyday and learn to understand how to make the most of donated product. We rounded off the day with a competition for the best dressed mannequin and display!

We had some great feedback from the day:

“Relevant content and inspirational ideas”  “Great energy from the presenter”  “I have learnt a lot and have some great ideas to take back to our stores”

If you like the sound of some learning more about Visual Merchandising and what benefits this could bring to your Charity retail estate – please just get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and help you to achieve more from your stores!

Call Jake Elkins on 0845 075 6111 for more information and details on our next FREE course.