Second Chance: December

Germander's verses written in December during her hosting at Second Chance, and some of the stories and photos behind them, are displayed here.

Scroll down to see them all:
- Replenishment Measurements for Re-stocking the Bookshelves
- Garment Grading at Second Chance:
1. The Culling
2. The Hanging

Bible - designed to be read as Literature
Simply Divine - book cover
Garment Grading - 1
Garment Grading - 2

Above: Garment Grading in Second Chance: The Culling and The Hanging

These two pieces are about the work that goes into sorting clothes and preparing it for sale - there is a lot more to it than simply pricing and hanging things!

A lot of care goes into choosing which donations to stock in the shop, and how to display them - these things affect how customers view the stock generally, and their attraction to it. For example, coming across items that are worn, drab, or have defects, might lower a customer's expectations of the rest of the stock and put them off looking through the rest of a rail.

In the 'culling' stage, donations are initially sorted, checked for defects, and assessed whether they are likely to sell. It's been very interesting going through the donations with the manager and learning all the things to look out for - from obvious defects to bad design, cheap workmanship, or subtle signs of an item being overwashed - or underwashed!

Because the stock seen on display seems to be clean and fresh, many people assume that charity shops have washing machines, so they think it's OK to donate unwashed clothes. However, the fact is that clothes which are obviously dirty or un-fresh are unsellable, and have to be culled straightaway. I've been pleased to see there is no wastage however - the culled clothes are collected by a recycling company who find other uses for them, including exporting them to the third world.

The 'hanging' part is also more specialised than you'd expect: there are at least a dozen different sizes, shapes and types of hangers, and choosing the right one is important to not only make sure that an item won't slip off, but also to display it to its best potential - a pullover or jacket on the wrong hanger can look limp and shapeless, but a longer, wider or more curved hanger could flatter its structure or shape.

Determining who a garment is for (men's or women's, adult's or child's?), which way around (front or back?) and its size, from inconsistent and often foreign clothes labels, is also a skill to be learnt! All these findings then need to be translated into sizer cubes - those little coloured cubes with the sizes on which are fitted onto the hanger hook.

Next the clothes are steamed (see here for a piece on this), then priced, for which there are further guidelines, and then they can be hung. Clothes are displayed on rails or carousels by 'colour-blocking', which means arranging garments by colour, rather than size - which looks better, and many customers prefer this.

Here at charity shop level, you can see the effects of shops like Primark, which bring large volumes of cheap clothes into the market. These end up as large volumes of donations of trendy but cheaply-made clothes, which is a mixed blessing! It's interesting to observe how the ongoing boom in charity shops must be fuelled by the great availability of low and mid-price clothes, which people buy easily and dispose of easily. I was reminded by one of the volunteers that charity shops are a relatively modern phenomenon: in the past, people had just a few sets of clothes, made their own, repaired what they had, and handed outgrown things directly onto others - there was no excess.

And finally, I learnt some new subject-specific vocabulary: the technical term used in the textile industry for 'bobbles' (those rounded clusters that build up on overwashed or overworn clothes), is called 'pilling', and there are even terms for each of the four stages of pilling: fuzz formation, entanglement, growth, and wear-off!

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