Nestled in a cosy corner on the Upper Level of Centre Court Shopping Centre is a genuine retail gem. Fayre and Square is a volunteering retail initiative – a shining example of how local organisations and town centre businesses can work together to benefit the Wimbledon community.
Fayre & Square was set up by the Merton Voluntary Service Council to provide support and retail training placements to volunteers with learning disabilities, mental health support needs or other significant barriers to employment, as a stepping stone to paid employment or further volunteering. The shop also provides a platform for local independent artists to showcase and sell their work directly to the public. They supply the unique range of hand-made products on offer at Fayre & Square including clothing, accessories, gifts, jewellery, art, candles and soft furnishings. A percentage of the income from their sales is returned to MVSC, to support the programme.
The Fayre & Square shop is managed by Kirstin O’Shea, MVSC’s Volunteering Co-ordinator who combines her extensive retail experience with her passion and drive to make a real difference, empowering people with disabilities and investing in her own community. Kirstin is responsible for co-ordinating and delivering the 8-week employability programme for disabled young adults, usually aged between 16-25 but exceptions can be made.
The programme covers key elements of retail, including communication and customer interaction, numeracy and money handling, stock rotation, IT skills, health and safety awareness, as well as customer feedback and market research. Over 40 young volunteers have successfully completed the course so far, with the majority progressing on to further training or volunteering, and several moving in to paid employment.
Local Wimbledon businesses are intrinsically involved. Centre Court’s support in providing the physical premises for Fayre & Square to exist has of course been invaluable. In addition to this, Fayre & Square has a long-standing relationship with Wimbledon based retail technology specialist, Retail IT which provides training and equipment including electronic point of sale and retail technology systems. Consumer retail experts from Elys have also recently advised on product placement and presentation, and assisted with the shop’s window display.
Kirstin is continuing to develop relationships with other local businesses as it is particularly important for many of the programme’s graduates to find onward opportunities with supportive businesses locally, within the familiarity of Wimbledon Town Centre. Marks & Spencer takes on one learner every Christmas as seasonal staff; Retail IT helps with practice interviews, and Rainbows at Sacred Heart Church in Wimbledon has taken on one a graduate learner as a long term volunteer enabling her to develop skills in her chosen career path, working with younger children.
Kirstin has been thrilled with the impact the programme has had so far and the positive results not only for the learners, but within the local business community. Perceptions are changing and there is growing understanding of the power of appreciating and harnessing diversity and being inclusive in the workplace. She says, “Too often the focus is on what they can’t do instead of what they can. I think Fayre & Square is a great opportunity to challenge that and open doors to further opportunities.”
Wimbledon is fortunate to have Fayre & Square. It is a presence to be treasured and nurtured, and you can show your support by popping in for a visit, buying some unique products, and hopefully volunteering to lend a hand!
Fayre & Square
Upper Level, Centre Court SW19 8YE
10am – 4pm, Tuesday – Saturday