My name is Gemma Kate Burgess and I’ve been the manager of Barnardo’s Vintage (Barnardo’s only specialist vintage and retro shop) for almost seven years.

My background is in commercial retail and I have specialised in visual merchandising and store layout. This specialisation and a keen eye for visuals has been beneficial when displaying all the fantastic donations. It’s also helped to grow a large following on Instagram @barnardos_vintage.

An exciting opportunity

Given my background I was very excited to learn that the Charity Retail Consultancy had developed visual merchandising training courses specifically for the charity retail sector via their partnership with the Charity Retail AssociationCharity Retail Learning. They have numerous courses available, some with a small fee and also several for FREE!!

I was quick to sign up for the visual merchandising course.

The course is a collaboration with Kat Maclennan – an experienced visual consultant with excellent knowledge of commercial and charity retail. Kat’s experience is invaluable as it can often be harder for charity retail to effectively merchandise their product, seeing as stock is so changeable and reliant on donations.

The course itself is really easy to follow as it is split into clear modules with a recap after each section.

It’s also very visual and you get to view examples of best practice from across both charity and commercial retail.  Some of which I am proud to say have come from the @barnardos_vintage Instagram account.

Putting my learning into practice

On completing the course I wanted to action what I’d learnt.  So I mapped out the shop and worked with my volunteers on the customer’s journey through the store. We revisited areas of the store that are shopped in less and thought about we could do to make it more appealing. We also looked at the ‘ hotspots’ in the store – our bestselling departments are the haberdashery corner and ladies apparel – to see what we could learn from them and apply similar rules to slower areas of the store.

As a team we planned the new layout and concentrated on the front of the shop. We condensed the amount of Bric we had on display (less can sometimes be more). Then used clothing wall bars to create a pathway to the back of the store and took away the furniture at the front of the store.  This really opened up the space and increase the natural light from the window.

We’ve now got men’s and ladies apparel as you walk in, and more space to showcase our specialist departments. I learned a lot from the course but the main take-home for me was a reminder about the importance of visual merchandising and how it can create a journey for the customer through your store – guiding their shopping experience.

I also made some really fantastic connections with likeminded creatives. I highly recommend the training courses to everyone and I’m looking forward to taking more / seeing what Charity Retail Learning develop next.

Gemma’s store is Barnardo’s Vintage, 76 High Street, Cheadle, SK8 1AE  Tel: 0161 4912000

Opening hours are 9.30am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday


Gemma took the Charity Retail Learning online Visual Merchandising course. You can sign up for it here for just £30 plus VAT

She also attended our Visual Merchandising webinar. You can watch a recording of the session for just £20 plus VAT here

Browse all our charity retail courses here