Sunflower Treasures, a pop-up shop, was a temporary store set up in support of the Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County. The shop opened its doors on April 29 and continued throughout the weekend until May 1, 2016. The shop sold pre-loved items that were generously donated by community members.
The idea for a pop-up shop originated to generate additional income that would support the work of the Society. In many communities nationally and internationally, a “Hospice Shop” is a permanent store that most often sells donated second hand goods of all kinds in support of Hospices and is a popular model around the world. The Hospice Shoppe, which is located in St John, New Brunswick, describes their shop as an “upscale resale experience”.
These existing Hospice Shops inspired a group of local volunteers to conduct preliminary research that would determine whether or not the concept would be advantageous to initiate in Cape Breton. Under the leadership of Cheryl Read, core committee members, Catherine Schaller, Frances Butler and Suzanne Merner looked into costs, locations, and population numbers. They also prepared a feasibility study and looked at other Hospice shops, developed questionnaires and talked with experienced hospice shop organizers to gather as much information as possible.
After analysis, discussion, and research, the committee then reached out to CBU marketing professor, Dr. Elaine MacNeil. She came on board and conducted a marketing study. MacNeil was the perfect fit for the task because she is a self-declared avid thrift shopper and knows the local market.
Through MacNeil’s findings, the group realized that the Hospice Society is not yet ready for a permanent shop. However, it was recommended they try an experimental “pop-up shop”. The committee then determined that they would follow through with this option and name it Sunflower Treasures.
The next step was to create a plan. The shop’s dates were strategic and were set to align with the arrival of a cruise ship, spring cleaning season, and National Hospice Week. Execution of the plan took a great deal of manpower and would not have been possible without the 72 volunteers who contributed in multiple ways and worked tirelessly before and during and after the chosen weekend.
The key to making the event successful was drawing upon on the expertise of community volunteers with relevant retail experience. For example, “stagers”, Jane MacDonald, a former manager of Yazer’s Men’s Wear, and her sister-in-law Anne Morrow, who displays great talent weekly with the Hospice “flower lady” program, staged all of the donated items to look organized and most importantly, desirable for purchase and easy to select. Other volunteers sorted, washed, prepped and priced the items, and the stagers presented everything in a variety of displays that made the shopping experience pleasant and easy.
Items donated to the shop included a wide range of pre-loved items such as purses, scarves, jewelry, collectibles, quilting fabrics, books, artwork, china and house hold items. One family donated 28 Hummel figurines. These German figurines have significant retail value and were worth a considerable sum of money. These treasures, along with so many others, were quickly purchased by eager shoppers over the three day period. By Sunday, the shop was almost completely sold out. Weekend best sellers included books, jewelry, and purses. Teacups were also a hot item with hundreds going to new homes!
The committee worked closely with members of the Hospice Society executive for several months to create an achievable plan. The time frame for work within the shop itself was 3 weeks to organize items, 3 days to establish the shop, and 3 hours to take everything down.
The community support experienced was nothing short of amazing. Many people who donated items also come back to shop. There was a mixed demographic of shoppers including knowledgeable thrift shoppers as well as those who are new to the thrift-shop scene. Age groups varied and everyone seemed to leave with at least one treasure.
The outcome of Sunflower Treasures, a pop-up shop, was one of great success. It raised awareness of the Society’s work and contributed slightly over $13,000 that will support patients and families who face life threatening illnesses within the Palliative Care Service, both at home community and on the An Cala Unit. There are typically 250 patients in the care of the Service at any given time and the needs are as unique as the patients themselves. The Society is most appreciative of all of the volunteers, donors, and shoppers who brought Sunflower Treasures to life and saw it thrive for all the right reasons.
Special thanks must be extended to the extraordinary group who investigated , explored options and created an incredibly successful event. Members included Chair, Cheryl Read, Suzanne Merner, Catherine Schaller, Frances Butler, Dale Orychock, Nancy Dingwall and Patricia Jackson.