Re.View #2 – Destination ‘Woke’

Image showing Yes to Less hand-stitched fabric sign at Oxfam Superstore in Oxford UK Yes to Less hand-stitched fabric signage at Oxfam Superstore © Start Design

Oxfam’s first-ever Superstore celebrates the positive impact circular shopping can have on its life-saving work to stamp out poverty.

More and more people, led by millennial and Gen Z ‘woke’ consumers, are shopping for a cause, choosing genuinely ethical and sustainable brands that better reflect their own values. Oxfam is tapping into this growth with its brand-new superstore. Far bigger – in both size and ambition – than anything that’s come from charity retail before, it’s delivering the kind of vibrant, rewarding shopping experience that the younger generation love. Located on the edge of a retail park, and opposite Oxfam’s own headquarters, the store stretches to 18,500 square feet, huge by comparison to the average size of a high street charity shop.

Designed by Start Design, and implemented by the brilliant team at Oxfam the superstore aims to be a must-visit destination for the local community. A store designed for shopping, but one that also offers so much more for today’s belief-driven, eco-consumers. Here’s why we think Oxfam’s superstore resets the bar for what a 21st Century charity store can be. Want to read about other brands that are also doing this? We’ve written about them here.


Image showing exterior of Oxfam Superstore in Oxford Oxfam’s first-ever Superstore © Start Design

It’s got ‘wow factor’

Millennials are into buying second-hand stuff – but not by wading through the usual second-hand retail experience. Oxfam’s Superstore delivers the kind of sustainable, ever-changing, vibrant and joined up experience Gen-Z and millennial ‘woke’ consumers love. For a start, the big hanger-style space stocks a wider product range than any other Oxfam store, including second hand electricals complete with a one-year warranty through local company, Rework. And then it’s the fact that it’s re-merchandised with new finds on a weekly basis. The store closes for three days every week, when staff get busy dressing the store afresh with the best of the newly donated stock, from clothing to homewares, vinyl records, books and furniture, reopening for four days of trading. Hand-picked vintage and designer pieces are nabbed by staff and featured online or displayed in-store. The entire mezzanine floor is dedicated to its online platform; a physical proximity that’s helping online and physical channels work together to sell donated stock.

Image showing preowned apparel at Oxfam Superstore © Start Design Preowned apparel at Oxfam Superstore © Start Design

It gives people time to linger and connect

This weekly re-staging of the store gives people a reason to visit again and again, and when they do, to stay longer. But it’s not just the merchandise mix that makes spending time in the store rewarding. The Water Tank Café, situated by the entrance, welcomes people in, and encourages visitors to chat over a coffee (sustainably sourced, of course) or meet a friend for lunch. There’s a kids area too, making the space family friendly. And a mini market hall running through the middle of the store, with booths built from actual stalls found in any street market, features products from the charity’s ethical ‘Sourced by Oxfam’ range or a curated collection of donated vintage gear. Dedicated event spaces will host talks, meetings and classes. The more time visitors spend, the more they connect with the experience and engage with the cause behind it, a win-win for Oxfam.


Image showing Sourced By Oxfam range at Oxfam Superstore in Oxford UK. Source by Oxfam range © Start Design

It gives purpose to each moment

Let’s not forget – this store’s reason for being is to raise much needed funds to help the charity do its work. Its stores need to graft ever harder to engage visitors with the cause as well as shift stock. Everywhere you look in this store, Oxfam’s cause is always on. Many elements that Oxfam uses in the field are recycled and upcycled for the store, linking the experience with its work around the world. The Water Tank Café is built into a water tower – the same type that regularly pops up at festivals around the country, such as Glastonbury, and is used in the field to alleviate emergency water shortages. A striking feature and can be seen wherever you are in the store. Colourful rugs and blankets from the charity’s ethical ‘Sourced by Oxfam’ range decorate the floors and walls, and are used to upholster seating. Water taps used to get clean water to disaster areas are used for customer water filling stations, tarpaulins form back-drops to merchandise and packing cases are used to display products. A manifesto wall and eye-catching merchandising island greet customers, setting out the Superstore’s purpose. Positive cause-related images and messaging throughout, remind us of the impact shopping, donating and volunteering have on Oxfam’s work.


Image showing Market Stall inspired womenswear merchandisers Market Stall Merchandising at Oxfam Superstore © Start Design

It targets its audiences and shopper types

Banish all thoughts of the jumble-sale often found in a charity store. This is a more streamlined, modern experience, that’s both easier to shop and for staff to manage but still a real feast for the eyes. Black and white retail signage is clear, calling out to shoppers and guiding them to clearly designated areas of the store. Simple, low-tech merchandising ideas such as colour blocking ceramics and glassware stacked on white shelving draw the eye. Neat rows of shoes perch on upcycled flower stands. Market stalls are piled high with colourful blankets and baskets. Donating is easier too, with a drive-through donation point open 24/7 and loads of free parking.


Image showing Water Tank Café at Oxfam Superstore in Oxford, UK Water Tank Café at Oxfam Superstore © Start Design

It really is a ‘Community Hub’

The aspiration for this store was for it to be a fantastic place to shop, but more than this, a social hub serving the local area. Local groups and social enterprises will be able to use the Water Tank Café and dedicated event spaces for meetings, talks, support groups and classes. Market stalls are open to local B Corps to sell their wares, and other community initiatives to promote their work. It’s also creating value through the opportunities its giving volunteers; the store is run by 20 staff and a pool of 150 volunteers. Community initiatives like these create a buzz that inspires a community to feel that this is a social space for them – an increasingly important part of any physical store’s role in the retail mix for today’s consumers.

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