Alison Shields looks after a number of stores for the British Red Cross. She tells Heather Suttie about her job and why she loves it
What did you do before the British Red Cross?
I used to manage Dunnes department stores. I love working in retail, so when this job came up I just went for it and have loved it ever since. This is a really brilliant charity and this is my ideal job. I’ve been here four years and absolutely love it.
Your Partick store is very busy. What’s the secret?
I've always been quite a practical and artistic person. I’m hardworking and I just love making everything look nice and as good as it can. Having worked in retail since I was 16, I progressed quickly and have been managing stores for more than 30 years. I’ve earned a lot of experience and I was able to make the space more shoppable. We do well here, and it’s all thanks to our local customers, my team, and our volunteers.
What’s your week like?
We can have more than 100 customers visit us on a daily basis. Saturday is definitely the busiest day and Friday is also really busy. There is something like 17 charity stores in the area. Busloads of people come at the weekend, and they spend the full day faffing about: they go for a drink, a bite to eat and they work their way round all of the charity shops, which is great as all the good causes benefit.
Tell us about your staff and volunteers
We have an open-door policy. Everyone is welcome, and I like to create and encourage a happy environment. All the staff and volunteers get on great together. We get set up for success, we have team talks, we know what we want to achieve, and we all support each other. We have a diverse mix of people, from different countries, different backgrounds and people love coming here because it’s a well-stocked shop with a great atmosphere.
Your shop window always looks great. Who does that?
I love doing the windows, so I always do them. Everyone calls me Picasso because I’ve always got a paintbrush in my hands half the time and it’s the same when I’m not at work. I’m handy with most things, so I'm always helping family and friends.
Tell us about your stock
Womenswear is very popular in our store. I understand what our customers want, and my job is to run a successful retail operation and I take that responsibility very seriously. I’m highly motivated to do my best for the charity and to serve our community.
How have the last two years been?
When we were in lockdown, we had many local and lots of elderly customers who maybe don’t have the capacity to shop online, so they’d pop by and treat themselves to a book or a DVD or some CDs. That was a real eye opener, being able to help the elderly or refugees to shop here where it’s affordable and sustainable.
What do you enjoy about the West End?
It’s very friendly, I love working in the area and I make a point of visiting all the little, local, and independent shops. I like to spend my money with them, rather than the bigger high street brands. I also love popping into all the other charity shops to see what they’re doing and of course pick up a few bits.
You don’t just work your magic in Partick…
No, I'm looking after two stores in Glasgow, two in Edinburgh and a few in the central belt and I'll go around the stores every few weeks and help them focus on being the best they can be. It's so good to see the people who support British Red Cross. It’s also good to have a chat with the customers. I really make a point of thanking everybody for what they're doing.