By Kelly Wickham
A charity shop in the city centre which sell books and vinyl records is celebrating its first birthday.
The Oxfam bookshop in East Street celebrated a year in business on Saturday with staff and volunteers greeting customers with balloons and stickers.
Shop manager John Smith said he was humbled to reach the first year on such a high and was overwhelmed with the support.
Speaking to the Chichester Post, he said: “I think the enthusiasm our staff feel for books can be felt by customers – they continually comment on how well laid out and organised we are, which makes my heart swell each time.
“I think in the current environment, where recycling is finally being taken more seriously, people are keen to bring their books, CDs and records to a place that they’ll be appreciated.
“Likewise, the public are keen to buy second-hand. Here, they know that the money they spend will be used for the benefit of the world we live in.”
Oxfam describes itself as ‘a global movement of millions of people who share the belief that, in a world rich in resources, poverty isn’t inevitable’.
They work with communities and partners towards a world without poverty.
John said it was satisfying knowing the money the shop raised each day could make a difference to lives around the world.
He said: “Fundamentally, this comes down to the donations we so kindly receive every day. Turning the support of locals into a charitable donation really makes you feel like a cog in the community.
“Having visited Oxfam House in Oxford recently, I can’t stress enough how dedicated the people who work behind the scenes are and how passionately they talk of ending world poverty, social equality, and environmental awareness.
“You can wholeheartedly feel that every penny we receive is leading to radical world improvements when you see these people in action.
“Last year, we provided numerous lifesaver cubes – miniature pump systems that can filter viral and bacterial impurities out of contaminated water – to families in third-world countries. It’s amazing thinking of us as a cog in a great machine that can create things like that.”
As manager, John said he understood the struggles faced by high street businesses, particularly in Chichester, at the moment.
He said that as brands competed for price and convenience on the internet, it had become harder to keep shops open when rent and rates were high, while footfall diminished.
“The only way shops can combat this is to deliver a personable experience that draws customers back time and time again,” he said.
“We need to offer the best service we can, and stock items that the public don’t know they want until they see it.
“Customer service and the browsing experience are the two fundamental ways of keeping businesses alive on the high street that are within our control.”
John believed the success of the shop came down to the ‘ever-changing selection of old oddities at the front’, where you might find a well-loved biography of Charlotte Bronte next to an 19th-century tome on Warwickshire.
He said: “This really does take the old maxim ‘you’ll never know what you’ll see next’ to new heights.
“We always try to keep as specialist a selection as possible in the non-fiction departments, with a mix of vintage and current fiction. In short, we cater to all literary tastes.”
The birthday event on Saturday was a huge success.
“The number of volunteers who came in to celebrate with us showed how much of a family the Oxfam bookshop has become, and the number of customers who came to congratulate us made us appreciate how much Chichester feels like our home,” said John.
“It was a day of celebration, filled with joy and merriment.”
The shop continue to ask the public to bring in books, CDs, records, DVDs, and pictures, and gift aid donations if possible so they can raise an extra 25 per cent.