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Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 04:11 GMT 05:11 UK


Oxfam shop better by design

A traditional Oxfam shop, as seen in Wokingham High Street

UK charity Oxfam is opening a new-look high street shop - created by one of the UK's wealthiest designers.

New Labour favourite Terence Conran has revamped the Tunbridge Wells store with a new layout, and sleek wood and steel shop-fittings.

Although the shop looks very minimalist, it is expected to sell the same mixture of second-hand and fair-trade clothes, books, stationery and food.

The BBC's Sophie Dekker: "Out go the traditional clutter and dowdy image"
Oxfam says the refit has been no more expensive to install than a traditional refurbishment.

The work has been part-funded by an anonymous donor from Hong Kong, and the Conran Design Group is charging a reduced fee.

If the redesign brings in more revenue, it will be extended to five other shops in the autumn. The rest of the chain's high street stores will be refurbished when needed, it says.

Takes ideas from business

Oxfam is by a wide margin the UK's largest charity shop chain, with 873 of Britain's 6,200 charity shops in 1997-98. Between them these generated an estimated income of more than £60m.

[ image: The first shop opened in 1947 in Oxford]
The first shop opened in 1947 in Oxford
The next largest was the British Heart Foundation with 350 shops (£34.4m), followed by Imperial Cancer Research Fund with 468 shops (£30.5m).

Oxfam claims that it has managed to keep ahead of its rivals by taking the best ideas from commercial businesses and adapting them for its own purposes.

Ann Scott reports: "Style matters as much as substance"
Volunteers are trained to sort and price products, for instance, and to display them in a customer-friendly way. Posters in the shops advertise the latest promotions.

Oxfam was established in 1947 as a development and relief agency to tackle poverty worldwide.

Its first gift shop was in Broad Street, Oxford, which opened the same year. It sold any donation it was given - which on one occasion included a donkey which went for £12.50.

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