'Pay what you can': City shop's unusual pricing plan

Nicky King, head of life skills and social development at St Martins with a shop apprentice and volunteer

Nicky King, head of life skills and social development at St Martins with Colin Coleman, (right) an apprentice at the St Martins' Donation Station in Norwich with a shop volunteer. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

It's not often shops see customers bartering the prices up - but this is the case for one site in the city centre doing vital work 

People pay only what they can afford - or what they feel an item is worth - at the St Martins' Donation Station charity shop in Magdalen Street.

It has had people in tears of gratitude after not being able to afford basic items of clothing from other shops.

It is believed the social enterprise, which raises money for St Martins homeless charity, is the first in the country to run on such a model where some pay as little as 10p for an item.

Colin Coleman, a shop apprentice at the St Martins' Donation Station on Magdalen Street, Norwich

Colin Coleman, a shop apprentice at the St Martins' Donation Station on Magdalen Street, Norwich - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Colin Coleman, 58, a shop apprentice who was helped by St Martins, said: "So many people are saying some charity shops are expensive. Costs of living have gone through the roof and through Covid people are short of money. If people can pay what they can afford they do not have to go without the basics."

All the money spent in the shop goes towards paying for toiletries and clean underwear for adults helped by St Martins.

Men and women supported by the worthy cause also use the shop to buy items.

"Everybody needs a new piece of clothing to brighten their day. They are not getting clothing that is given to them, they have a choice.

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"We'd much rather have £2 in the till for a coat worth £20 rather than it stay on the rail. Our main objective is to help the homeless," Mr Coleman added.

Nicky King, head of life skills and social development for St Martins, said: "On our first day we had a woman in tears because she could buy coats for her family with £1.

"It is amazing. We are one of the rare shops where people barter upwards."

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's Housing Trust. Picture: St Martin's

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins - Credit: Archant

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins, said: "If someone cannot afford to shop in a charity shop something is very wrong. We want to right that wrong and open our doors not just to the people who use our services but also to the people who are struggling financially."

What do shoppers think?

Shoppers have praised the St Martins' shop payment model calling it refreshing.

Natty Beatts, a shopper at the St Martins' Donation Station on Magdalen Street, Norwich

Natty Beatts, a shopper at the St Martins' Donation Station on Magdalen Street, Norwich - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Natty Beatts, 32, a psychic healer from Norwich, said since lockdown people are struggling even more to buy the basics. 

She added: "It is amazing and a really good system, especially with the pandemic when people are unable to afford things."

Austin Javier, 25, from New York, who is working in Norwich as a contractor was taken aback by the unusual payment method. 

He went on: "I think it is great. It is a change of pace."

Jess Mackinder, 28, a carer and cleaner, said: "There are people in poverty and something like this is really refreshing."

The shop is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-4pm and accepts items that are clean and in good condition.

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