Derwen College’s newest enterprise, The Vintage Advantage charity shop, celebrates a hugely successful first year of supporting people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) into employment.

In April 2021, Derwen College, in Gobowen, near Oswestry, opened its first charity shop offering students on-the-job retail experience.

The Vintage Advantage was born from necessity during the pandemic, when students on vocational pathways were unable to attend usual work placements. During lockdown, students on the specialist college’s Retail and Enterprise pathway supported staff in sorting, pricing and displaying goods. Then in April 2021, they were finally able to practise their sales and marketing skills with customers.

The shop was created through the refurbishment of a classroom. It was opened thanks to support from the Steve Morgan Foundation, with additional funds donated by The Community Foundation for Staffordshire and Shropshire.

Shop manager Sharon Jones said: “We have been overwhelmed by the support from visitors to the Vintage Advantage charity shop. Customers are enjoying browsing and buying our stylish selection of clothing and accessories, homeware and books, and many have commented on how well-displayed, bright and spacious the shop is.

The charity shop has far exceeded all expectations. As well as providing work experience, it is also generating funds for Derwen Charity. These funds then support students and adults with SEND with the opportunties and tools needed to progress their learning, work and independence training.

Commercial manager Pete Evans said: “It is exactly one year since the students, Sharon and I opened the doors to the Vintage Advantage charity shop. We would like to thank all our customers for their continued support, high quality donations and wonderful positive feedback that has encouraged us to develop.

It was a risk to open a shop during the pandemic, but it has been a tremendous success for the students, clients, and, of course, Derwen College Charity.”

Pictured: Derwen College client Caroline Ley, Commercial Manager Pete Evans and Commercial Supervisor Sharon Jones celebrate Vintage Advantage’s first birthday.