Surprising and valuable finds as Prospect Hospice opens eBay shop in lockdown

January 2021


When the UK went into lockdown last March, charities had to shut their shops – which meant closing the doors on an important form of income. But staff and volunteers at Prospect Hospice weren’t going to be beaten by the virus, and quickly began to think differently. If the customers couldn’t come to their shops, they’d have to take the shops to the customers. Cue the launch of the Prospect Hospice eBay platform. And, say the staff who sort out the pre-loved goods that they are donated, they are regularly coming across some surprising, and valuable, finds.

Barbara Ash and her colleagues are not any ordinary retail workers. Though several of them have a background in retail, they agree that working in Prospect Hospice’s distribution centre, which sorts donations and sends them out to shops, brings surprises that most retail workers never experience.

Like many of us, the retail department of Prospect Hospice turned to online technology in a bid to keep business going. Team leader Barbara and her colleagues – some of whom are salaried staff and some are volunteers – moved their sales operation onto the internet.

Barbara says that several people in the retail team, including some shop managers, have developed a real eye for anything that’s valuable. They can spot a handbag that might be worth around £4,000, or know that an unused Xbox Minecraft in its original packaging could fetch around £200. The best way to sell something that’s collectible, or of intrinsic worth – such as gold or silver – is to put it onto eBay. And that’s exactly what they’ve been doing this year.

“eBay is working brilliantly for us,” says Barbara.

“We get some amazing donations from really generous people, and it’s our responsibility to achieve what they are really worth. Our shop managers have years of experience in their geographical or specialist areas, so they are great at flagging up donations that could bring in substantial funds.”

Gen Fowler, team leader for eBay, spends much of her time researching current going rates for a wide range of items.

“I’m looking at anything that is rare, quirky, unusual or collectible,” says Gen.

“We use Google a lot, of course, but we also draw on the personal interests of colleagues, including our volunteers. One of our volunteers is really knowledgeable on vintage clothes, and she can spot a high-end label a mile off. Another volunteer is keen on photography, so he’s the one to go to for cameras etc. Our books and media shop manager in Swindon’s Commercial Road knows a lot about books, and lets us know if anything unusual is donated there.”

This sort of knowledge is reaping rewards for the charity. In early December, Prospect Hospice put a Peacock edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice onto eBay – and it sold for £635.

“Even things that are broken can be valuable,” says Gen.

“We were given half a dozen vintage watches which weren’t working, but we raised £165 based on their scrap value.”

As Barbara says, their success is as much down to teamwork, as technology.

“We have got a fantastic set of people working in retail, whether staff or volunteers,” she says. “And of course, we depend on the generosity of those who donate their precious possessions. Quite often, they are the families of patients who have been closely involved with Prospect Hospice towards the end of their lives. They want to say ‘thank you’ to Prospect Hospice – and we want to say thank you to them.”

To see Prospect Hospice’s eBay stock go to: www.prospect-hospice.net/ebay

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