Good leadership is criticially important for the long-term success of all businesses and retail is no exception. One of the main challenges for charities with a retail business is that retail is not their area of expertise.  This makes charities normally very dependent on the capabilities of their retail leadership. There are some key differences between having a senior role leading a charity retail business and holding a senior retail role within traditional retail. 

Difference one

Charities need someone who is good at retail operations to run their retail business on a day-to-day basis but there is normally no one to offer retail strategic guidance within charities. This is because most people within senior leadership roles within charity retail have traditional retail operational experience at a senior level, but very few have previously held senior retail operational roles rather than senior retail strategic roles. Most of the strategic roles within traditional retail have people who are highly qualified with relevant qualifications like MBA’s.

Difference two

Charity retail has a range of key differences to traditional retail, which makes it far more difficult to influence planned changes than traditional retail.  It also makes developing the strategy to improve a charity retail business far more complex than a traditional retail business.

Mainstream Retail

Charity Retail

o  Structured

o  Unstructured

o  Planned stock package

o  Unplanned stock package

o  Reliable supply chain

o  Unreliable supply chain

o  Structured set pricing

o  Unstructured pricing

o  Operational and Brand consistency

o  Operational and Brand inconsistency

o  Scientific shop layout are based upon data analysis and expertise

o  Unscientific shop layouts are not based upon a range of different random factors

o  Retail Managers don’t make commercial decisions

o  Retail Managers are the commercial decision makers

o  The shops are manned by paid staff

o  The shops are manned by a paid manager and volunteers

o  Retail Managers implement all the operational procedures.

o  Retail Managers sometimes operate without clear operational procedures.

o  High investment in training

o  Little investment in training


Operational retail leadership is ensuring the day-to-day processes are carried out effectively by monitoring performance and addressing issues as they arrive to achieve the retail strategy. Strategic leadership involves developing a clear vision by long-term planning and by driving operational change to achieve the strategic adjectives.

The Retail Leadership Reality

Retail is evolving at the quickest pace in history therefore charity retail needs to evolve quickly just to keep up. Any charity without strong strategic retail leadership requires external support and guidance or the retail business is most likely to stagnate or even worse get let behind.

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