Bizarre hospice shop donations feature in Hospice UK Retail Awards 2017

Apr 27, 2017

An antique birthing stool - designed to support women to stay in an upright posture during childbirth- which was donated to a hospice shop in Manchester has won Most Unusual Item in this year’s Hospice UK Retail Awards.

The item was left outside the hospice shop in Edgeley, Greater Manchester, one of St Ann’s 14 shops across the city. Curious about its origins, the hospice did some research and discovered that birthing chairs replaced an even older practice of mothers in labour sitting on birth attendant’s laps. The stool ended up being sold to a local antiques dealer with the income coming back to the hospice.

A close contender for the top award for unusual items was an unbroken 96-year-old chicken egg which had been saved in a cardboard box since Easter 1921. The date was marked on the egg which was sold this under the curios category on eBay.

Other unusual items which featured in the award entries included a full-size doctor’s skeleton and a pair of customised jeans covered in white graffiti, some featuring swear words. (The latter item for obvious reasons was not put on display in the hospice’s shop).

The retail awards were presented by Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK, at the Hospice UK Retail conference 2017 entitled “Reinvention or Revolution?” held in Kennilworth, Warwickshire, earlier today.

Hospice won the Specialist Retail Outlet of the Year award for its enterprising  'pop-up' shop in Brighton's shopping mall, Churchill Square as part of the popular art sculpture trail campaign called 'Snowdogs by the Sea'. The stand sold Snowdog merchandise to support the art trail, including ceramic figurines, clothing, stationery and toys.

The pop-up shop was promoted on line, via social media, and in the local press and did a roaring trade from its first day of opening. During the eight weeks it took £60,000, plus £900 in cash donations.  

Each day one of two paid managers was supported by volunteers who worked half day shifts. Displays were well maintained and staff spared no efforts in helping customers to shop the range of goods and talk about the trail and the hospice at the same time.

Overall, across its three shops in Brighton and the pop-up shop the hospice sold £170,000 of Snowdogs merchandise, making a retail profit of around £70,000, far exceeding its conservative target of £20,000 profit.

Commenting on the awards Catherine Bosworth, Director of Income Generation at Hospice UK, said:

“These awards celebrate the many faces of the UK’s flourishing hospice retail sector, from its creative and entrepreneurial spirit and dedicated volunteers to the downright curious, reflected in some of the more unusual items donated to hospice shops.

“Hospice shops are a vital source of income for hospices and as well as generating much-needed funds are also a great way for them to engage with the public and help increase awareness about the benefits of hospice care.”

Hospice shops form a large part of the charity sector market with 2,500 shops across the UK which generate total profits of £55m. Hospices derive on average about 10 per cent of their income from shop profits.

Other winners of the retail conference awards included:

Hospice Retail Team of the Year

During 2016 the dynamic team at St Christopher's Hospice in south London delivered more than any other year, generating more than £1m profit from its 19 shops and opening two new shops, including a new retail hub.

The retail hub has supported all the other shops with stock storage sorting and consumables and also houses the retail offices, which has freed up much needed space in the hospice without the added costs for office space.

This, in addition to improvements introduced for data capture and to simplify the gift aid process has enabled the trading team to “work smarter not harder”, keep costs down and increase profit productivity. It has also allowed more time for training volunteers and staff, promoting growth and stability in the team.

Retail Volunteer of the Year

Phyllis Shepherd started volunteering in one of Thames Hospice’s shop shortly after her husband died, just over a year ago, giving up her free time every Saturday morning without fail.

Staff describe her as “an absolute treasure” and say her wonderful sense of humour and lively personality brings an influx of customers every Saturday who come in especially to see her, which is always reflected in the shops takings for the day.

She conscientiously will never leave the shop until the afternoon volunteers are all there to take over so the manager is never short on help and can take a well-deserved lunch break.

Phyllis is also known for her strong sense of community. In addition to her volunteering she also does readings in the village library and organises coffee mornings in the village hall, meaning local residents get to know her and follow her to the shop when she is on shift.

Notes to editors

  • Hospice UK is the national charity for hospice care and the only membership body for organisations providing hospice care. We support and champion the work of more than 200 of these organisations across the UK.
  • Hospices, and other organisations which provide hospice care, offer vital care for people with terminal or life-limiting conditions and also support their families and carers.
  • For further information about hospice care visit our website or follow us on Twitter @hospiceukPA.
  • Get all the latest news from the hospice and palliative care sector, as well as patient stories, on ehospice UK at: This service is managed by Hospice UK. You can also follow ehospice news on Twitter at @ehospicenews


Media enquiries: 

Please contact Suzanne Stevenson on 020 7520 8296 or by email at For out of hours media enquiries please call 07881 940 318.





What does hospice care mean to you?