Jacky Parker, store manager at the new Sue Ryder ‘Super Store’ in Lynn, explains why she is so enthusiastic about her work, and what makes the store a bit different.
Where have you worked previously?
I’ve worked for 30 odd years in retail, which includes managing the Westgate Department Stores before they were taken over by Beales.
What attracted you to work at Sue Ryder?
Sue Ryder doesn’t get as much press as Oxfam and British Heart Foundation, and I liked what I had seen in their shops. I wanted to do some charity work, so that’s where I started off.
Sue Ryder is one of the lesser known hero’s. The Charity was the result of one person’s ideals and dreams, and I find that quite appealing.
We provide a lot of care for people in the community living with neurological and complex conditions such as Huntington’s Disease, Stroke, Brain Injuries and Cancer. We also provide palliative care in our hospices and look after people in their own homes and at the end of their lives whilst supporting family and friends too.
What makes the Sue Ryder superstore different?
The biggest difference is the size. A superstore is huge compared to the little High Street shops. By selling furniture, you have to have the full space. I’ve found that people shop the superstore the same way they do with the big department stores.
They are picking a bit of furniture, a bit of clothing, a piece of bric-a-brac, which is quite interesting to watch. Sue Ryder has been very forward thinking in seeing this opportunity, and I think this store and stores like it have great potential, and will be the way forward.
It’s generated a lot of publicity. I’ve seen you appearing on Sky News!
Yes we’ve been on Sky News, BBC Radio Norfolk, the Daily Mail and more. I’ve never seen a charity shop as big as this, and the way it’s fitted out. It’s amazing.
How did it feel appearing on Sky News?
I’m not a person who likes anything like that. I’m not a ‘publicity hound’. But actually I didn’t mind it that much! In my past career I’ve had to do presentations to people, which helped a lot.
What’s been the response to the store so far?
It’s been absolutely amazing. We are ‘full on’ all day and every day, and have had some amazing donations, which I would like to thank everybody for.
The feedback has been brilliant. I feel there is a big change in the wind, with people recycling, upcycling and not being wasteful. People say it’s because people don’t have any money, but I don’t totally believe that. Obviously we are all up against it with the bills, but I do feel people are developing more of a conscience about landfill waste and everything else.
It’s kind of kitsch to say ‘oh, this is vintage, this is second-hand’. These days film stars will admit to wearing ‘vintage’ to the Oscars, and even Kate Middleton is avoiding the high-end makes, by shopping online and buying reasonably priced things.
I think everybody is moving away from this total waste of buying the throwaway kind of stuff. People are being more acute with the way they spend their money, and that’s helping us.
There’s a group of youngsters at the Discovery Centre in North Lynn who are ‘upcycling’ some of our furniture. I’ve told them they can do exactly what they want with it, but need to bear in mind that it needs to be commercial.
I’m really excited about what will be coming back to us. They are re-painting, covering them in comic drawings and so on. I think it’s great that they’ve been given a real opportunity. It’s a chance for them to shine with the bits of furniture they do. Who knows, this could be the beginning of a big career for someone. Your Damien Hirsts all had to start somewhere!
Do you need more volunteers?
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the business, and we could do with some more. The volunteers that I’ve got are all fantastic – Two youngsters who are super stars!
Volunteering would be a good start for any young person wanting a career in retail because they can put on their CV that they’ve ticketed stock, merchandised, implemented displays, worked on the till and developed customer service skills. They can also say they have worked for a National Charity Retailer.
What’s nice for me is that I can pass my knowledge on to them and help develop their skills, but we also take on people who may have just retired, and want to keep their mind active. I do enjoy working with both young and older people because you get a good mix, and they can both learn from each other.
What do you enjoy most about your job?.
Being productive. I love the busyness. I love being creative, in that we can lay things out and display things together however we want. In your more corporate High Street stores you are told where you can put this stock and that stock. There’s a thrill that you get from putting a sofa with a table with bits on it.
The team all work incredibly hard and it’s a very full-on, physical job. It is extremely satisfying to know that I’m giving something back and it’s not all ‘take take take’.
What do you do to relax?
(laughs) Being so busy I tend to collapse a bit! I spend time with friends. I like doing very creative things, doing things in the home and decorating.
Favourite place in Norfolk?
Holt is my favourite place, but I also love the Norfolk coastline.
What books do you like?
I read a lot, but don’t have any particular favourite.
What music do you like?
I’m quite eclectic. Michael Buble, One Republic, Robbie Williams, Lincoln Park, The Trash, Blur. I dip my finger in a lot of things.
What vegetable would you be?
A pea. I love peas! They are so little, green and shiny!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Probably retired. If I won the lottery it would be relaxing somewhere in the Caribbean. I would like to travel the world.
It’s good to plan a little bit ahead, but truthfully I live in the here and now. Who knows what will pop up in a few years time?
My life has been very good for me. I’ve had some amazing opportunities, but a big part of it is just being in the right place and the right time.
And finally, what things would you like to be remembered for?
I’d like to be remembered for being kind, having integrity and being funny. One of the greatest gifts anyone can have is to make people laugh!
As told to John Beck.