DONATION Melissa Hoban (far right) from the Curiosity Charity Shop in Westport, making the presentation of a cheque to Martina Reid of the Irish Wheelchair Association. Also pictured are Lynne O’Malley and Mary Lennie.
WHEN the first lockdown was announced back in March, Melissa Hoban feared it would be the end of The Curiosity Shop, the charity shop that her mother Lynn had opened eleven years earlier.
The charity shop located on Neill O’Neill Lane, which connects Bridge Street with the James Street carpark in Westport. It ‘sells pretty much anything’ to raise money for local charities, and like every other retail business, it would now be entering unchartered waters.
“I honestly feared for the shop during the first lockdown, whether it would survive it and whether customers would come back… but I was worrying about nothing at that point,” she told The Mayo News.
“My biggest fear during the first lockdown was that people would not try secondhand clothes or preowned goods and see it as not sanitary. But it was the complete opposite. We have had a phenomenal response. To be honest, it hasn’t been too bad of a year, even though we were closed for five months.”
The upside of the first lockdown was that there was a lot of spring cleaning going on, and The Curiosity Shop was the beneficiary, receiving lots of what Melissa described as ‘really good-quality stock’ to sell when they did reopen last summer. She is also of the opinion that some people thought differently on how they shopped after three months of the lockdown.
“There are two types of people; one who loves charity shops and one who wouldn’t be seen dead in a charity shop. I did get that vibe off people that their attitudes had changed a bit and they were more open to coming into charity shops.
“I think people may have reevaluated during the first lockdown [and decided] that they don’t need to spend their money on top designer clothes and may need to mind their money more. We were quite busy when we reopened, which was a nice surprise to be honest. I can’t say it had a negative effect on the shop to be honest, quite possibly we gained more customers. It didn’t have a bad effect anyway.”
Each year, Melissa makes donations to various charities in the Westport area and she was delighted that she was able to make donations to seven charities at the end of 2020. The beneficiaries were Westport Lions Club, Westport Resource Centre, Mayo Animal Welfare, Irish Wheelchair Association, Mayo Rape Crisis Centre, MS Ireland and St Vincent de Paul. By selling face masks made by Maureen Halpin, she also raised €2,000 for the Irish Motor Neurone Association.
With the charities’ main fundraising events cancelled due to Covid restrictions, Melissa said the beneficiaries were delighted to receive the donations
“I think maybe because the charities were suffering so badly it tugged on people’s heartstrings a little and they supported the charity shops a bit more. We did have an amazing year last year in that we could still donate to charity.
“Any of the charities we managed to donate to were in shock that we were actually able to donate to them. The Westport Lions Club were blown away, and in fact two lady’s from two separate charities were quite teary … We are really happy with what we achieved.”
During the previous lockdowns, Melissa operated a type of ‘click and collect’ system, which helped with turnover but this is currently prohibited under the new restrictions. With uncertainty over when retail businesses will be allowed to reopen, she is no longer taking donations, as she is worried she will be left with a lot of winter stock that she can’t sell.
“I am getting messages every single day about getting donations, and I am having to turn them down. My biggest fear is they will end up in the landfill. I think a lot of good stuff will be thrown away, which is not great, but there is nothing we can do about it.
“We were still going very strong until the end of 2020, but it is hard to say what this year will bring. It is impossible really, but I’m not as worried as I was the first time around.
“I have a huge amount of winter stock, which I can’t sell as I’m not open. It has a knock-on affect that way. But there is not much you can do about it. If we can open in February and the weather is still cold, there is a possibility we can sell it, otherwise it will have to go into a sale or hold on ’til next year.
“It is impossible to say at this moment in time what will happen. It is what it is I suppose. My only saving grace is that everything we get is donated, so the stock doesn’t cost us any money … I really feel for other retail shops, I don’t know how they are managing to be honest.”