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Nonprofit closed 29 shops due to Covid-19 after 62 years, says it’s a “fresh view”

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Just a year into her role as the newly appointed CEO of one of Western Australia’s nonprofit organisations, Good Sammy Enterprises, Melanie Kiely was confronted with the tough decision to close its 29 op shops due to Covid-19.

“No one could’ve possibly anticipated or planned for what’s happened. It has fundamentally changed the way we do and think about our business. There is no option of going back to ‘normal’, our new normal is to be prepared for this kind of situation in future,” Kiely said.

In late March, Good Sammy Enterprises closed all its stores; a first in the store’s 62-year history. Revenue from its op shops support the organisation’s core purpose of providing meaningful employment opportunities for people with disability.

“To close our shops was a big decision, although a simple one at the end of the day. The safety and well-being of our team, clients, and our community of supporters is our priority,” Kiely said.

Rather than being defeated, Good Sammy Enterprises used the time to launch a curated online store for special goods, collectables and unique items.

“While our retail stores will always be considered the face of Good Sammy Enterprises, adding an online store, helps to expand our reach nationally and addresses the changing shopping behaviours,” she said.

Kiely emphasised that there are plenty of bargains still to be found in the stores. “We view our online store as complementing our existing stores, but if we have another shutdown occur in WA, we don’t want to lose our ability to trade.”

Kiely said providing another revenue stream is important although creating a diverse range of contemporary employment options is a highlight of the new direction.

“To support the online store we have created employment opportunities in photography, product styling, picking and packing. Our fundamental reason for being is to provide meaningful employment for people with disability, in a contemporary environment. Providing roles in a digital world creates yet another career path to be explored for our clients,” Kiely said.

Good Sammy Enterprises is testing its systems and pricing, including shipping across Australia and a click and collect option from its stores.

While Kiely’s focus is to build on the strong brand and legacy of the 60+ year old NFP, the shutdown provided an opportunity to challenge their thinking.

“One of our values is to be brave. We had to respond quickly, to reshape our thinking and empower the team to consider different ways of doing business. This experience has shown us that we can change at speed, which provides real benefits to the team, our clients and their families and our community of supporters. When we break everything down, that’s why we exist and at the heart of everything we do,” she said.

“The online shop is a good example of coming together to action a significant project in tough times. It’s given us the confidence to have a fresh view on creating the dynamic and contemporary future we want to achieve,” added Kiely.

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