SVP shops were closed for months this year
A young homeless couple came to the door of one of the St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) charity shops in the north-east of the country the other week.
The young man was wearing no shoes.
The shop was closed, but volunteers were offering a click-and-collect service, where customers could look at some of the items on offer online, reserve something and then collect it.
“We were told during lockdown that footwear was not an emergency item and we were accepting of that.
“But it’s an emergency item for the man walking down the street with no shoes on him,” said Dermot McGilloway, the SVP National Development Retail Manager.
With 44 shops in the greater Dublin area and 234 shops across the country, the stores form a key part of SVP’s role.
“We’re quite unique within the charity sector,” said Mr McGilloway.
“Charity shops are generally fundraisers, we’re a service provider and we also raise funds and so it’s very important for us to really get into the heart of local communities.
“A lot of our shops trade in communities that other retailers wouldn’t want to be in, wouldn’t be commercially advantageous, but that’s not why we’re there.
“We’re trying to reach out to these communities and make sure people can access us.”
Once an item is bought in an SVP shop, and once the bills and overheads of the store are paid, the rest of the money goes back into the local conference, so the money stays local.
However, with their shops being unable to trade for the majority of this year, the society has lost “millions”.
“Shops closed completely during the first lockdown but they remained open for a click-and-collect service in the second,” explained Mr McGilloway.
“From a financial point of view, it was absolutely devastating.
“Millions have been lost, we haven’t even worked out the full bill of that yet.”
Terenure in south Dublin has one of the country’s most famous SVP shops.
It’s best known for its forward-thinking fashion and unique items.
Shop manager Clare Kilroy said that people travel from all over the country to see it.
“We try to be different and quirky,” she said.
“We have a brand new vintage room which has attracted a lot of people.
“Some people will come in with a budget and we look after them.
“We’ve toiletries and sleeping bags, a couple of tents, for anyone who comes in and needs it.”
Ms Kilroy said that she has also seen different types of people reach out for help during the pandemic, especially when shops were closed and there weren’t as many affordable options available.
“People look for bedding, especially those new into accommodation coming from hostels.
“They weren’t able to buy furniture with the lockdown.
“So we helped with bedding, cutlery, cups and saucers.”