THE escalation in online sales during lockdown has prompted a North-East hospice to make a key appointment.

Gerry Weetman has joined Butterwick Hospice Care as Retail Operations Manager, overseeing the re-opening of the hospice shops which have been closed during lockdown, but is also increasing online sales.

Gerry, who lives in Hartlepool, brings a wealth of experience, having spent 20 years working for Oxfam, where online sales grew from £300,000 a year to nearly £4m during his tenure.

“Last year has been tough for everybody, particularly the charities, with loss of income and shops being pretty much closed all year,” he said. “We are looking forward to having our shops up and running as soon as restrictions are lifted, but we need to increase our online offer as well.”

Butterwick Hospice Care already sells goods through its website, using eBay as a third-party channel, but the focus has mainly been on the high street.

“What lockdown has taught charity retail, in particular, is that e-commerce is a huge opportunity, and the Butterwick is no different,” he said. “Experts say that lockdown has accelerated online sales by about five years, and it’s now around 40 per cent of anyone’s turnover.

“We are determined to see Butterwick online sales accelerate.”

One of the charity’s greatest assets is its volunteers, and Gerry is hoping that lockdown has also encouraged people to think about using some of their free time to help organisations, such as the Butterwick, as restrictions are lifted.

“Volunteering provides opportunities to people who want to give something back to the community, and where people may have lost their jobs because of Covid, or been furloughed, this is an ideal chance for them to get work experience for their CV,” he explained.

“I hope people will visit the shops when they are open, or use our eBay link on the website. Whatever contribution they can make – whether it’s volunteering, a donation in kind or in cash, or as a customer, as much of that money as possible will go back to the hospice to provide outstanding care.

“Raising money for a charity is not an easy job at all, but it’s a fulfilling one, because you know that when you see the money coming in, the difference that it will make to somebody’s life.”