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Fears for future of Blustons charity shop as manager is made redundant

Octavia Housing group says it has undertaken a review into how its shops operate

04 September, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Lisa Perry outside the famous shop

THE manager of the Blustons clothes shop – credited with creating some of its striking window displays – has spoken out after being told she no longer has a role in the historic high street store.

Lisa Perry started working at the shop in Kentish Town when it was revived by the social housing and care provider Octavia Housing as a charity shop in 2018. The second-hand clothes expert and retailer has made the historic front windows a popular sight on Kentish Town Road with themed displays, attracting donations and customers.

But she claims that after a Covid-related restructuring, she had to reapply for her own job – and says that after raising concerns about staffing and volunteer levels, was told she was to be made redundant.

“I was told I could take voluntary redundancy or reapply for my own job,” she said. “I put in my CV and had an interview. Instead, I find they have changed the name of the job from shop manager to community shop manager, and made the assistant manager’s job a part-time post, asking us to rely heavily on volunteers. I warned them it would be hard to run it successfully this way. There are many, many charity shops on Kentish Town Road competing for people’s time.”

One of Ms Perry’s displays

The future of the shop, famous for its striking frontage and a red polka dot dress which used to hang in the window, was thrown into question when its last owner, Michael Albert, a relative of founders Jane and Samuel Bluston, retired in 2015.

Octavia later stepped in after attempts to bring it back to life had been unsuccessful.

Ms Perry, who grew up in Brecknock Road and still lives in Kentish Town, recalls being taken to Blustons, established in the early 1900s, as a child by her grandmother, and being struck by the historic glass central window which she has since turned into an eye-catching space.

She has experience working at Camden Lock and other vintage fashion spots and is interested in promoting what she dubs “slow fashion”.

“I fear this restructuring will put the future of Blustons in danger,” she said. “I keep getting stopped in the street by people asking me what is going on, why the shop is closed and why the win­dows look so bad now.”

The Blustons clothes shop before it was turned into a charity shop

She said customers say they are worried about the shop’s future without her at the helm, adding: “People now realise how precious Blustons is. We have so many customers come in and say how much they love it, and how it brings back memories.”

Now Ms Perry hopes to seek a way to buy the lease from Octavia and set up a crowdfunded community store.

A spokesperson for Octavia Housing said: “Our charity shops play a key role in enabling us to fund community projects for older and young people. We are very grateful for the amount of support we receive from people through donations. We are committed to ensuring we maximise the funds raised to increase our reach to people and to extend our social purpose. In line with this we have undertaken a review of the way our shops operate and we are making some changes. We have fully supported our colleagues throughout the process.”

The spokesperson added that Blustons planned to serve customers again in October.


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