Happy New Year!

It’s another New Year and a time for celebration. We hope you all enjoyed a little bit of a break over the Christmas holidays and you’re feeling refreshed.

For us, it was just as busy as ever, but as we reflect on another successful year, it’s certainly not been without lots of exciting changes – and challenges!

As ever, we would like to thank all our customers, colleagues, suppliers and community partners for all their support in 2023 – we very much look forward to seeing what 2024 has in store for you all!

Here’s a few highlights from us.

The big changeover!

Earlier this year we were very sad to see Richard and Karen Dance take a step back from the business after more than 30 years. But, we hear that they are very much enjoying the quieter life!

They are still frequent visitors to our Brockenhurst store and do a number of things to support the community. We’d again like to express our thanks and appreciation to Richard and Karen – and we wish them all the very best.

With Richard and Karen stepping back, our six shops became part of the Southern Co-op as they celebrated their 150th anniversary year.

Back then, 30 people attended a public meeting and unanimously agreed to pay one shilling to establish a local Co-operative. Back then, the Co-Operative Society was formed by dockyard workers to tackle exploitation and inequality, and 5 months later, the Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society’s first shop opened in Charles Street on 9 May 1873.

There was recently a special edition of the Portsmouth News, which included a pull-out section on Southern Co-op’s beginnings as part of its 150th birthday in May – you can read it here.

Want to join us? If you’re looking for a new role and you’re interested in becoming part of our Welcome store team you can read more here.

Support for Ukraine

In April, Welcome stores teamed up with New Forest for Ukraine to donate 300 disposable barbeques that were removed from our shelves two summers ago.

Disposable barbeques are a huge risk of causing wildfires. They are devastating for ground nesting birds and other animals, and the impact is felt for years. Plus, climate change also means hotter, drier periods are inevitable, and the risk of starting a deadly fire by taking a barbecue out into the woods increases.

While they were no good to us, New Forest for Ukraine said they could make use of them, and gave them to reservists on the front line in Poland and Ukraine who used them to heat their food for daily essential cooking.

You can read more about the donation here.

New Forest for Ukraine was set up to help the war efforts in Ukraine and has since filled 100 trucks with aid, including 3,000 trauma kits, 150 generators and over 10,000 bandages.

Here’s a photo of us handing over the final batch!

Solent Mind support – and thank you

We’ve been working in partnership with Solent Mind for a few years now and they do some incredible work providing mental health support across the region.  

Not only were we thrilled to announce our partnership with them for another year, in August we handed over a cheque for £3,699.71 to help fund some of their vital services.

What’s more, this year we rolled out a partnership with Solent Mind that gives all our colleagues access to mental wellness kits, so that staff can recognise symptoms of poor mental health and how they can access help if they need it.

Being well physically and mentally is so important and as you can imagine at this time of year, keeping well can feel like a tricky task sometimes.

If you need to talk to someone, you can head to the Solent Mind website to find out more about the services available in your community.

Thank you Solent Mind for everything you do, it’s a pleasure to partner with you.

Becoming Plastic-free!

As an eco-conscious business, we were absolutely thrilled that our Brockenhurst store was recognised with “Plastic Free Community” status back in June.

As an initiative of Greener Brockenhurst, the campaign started last year after the idea was put forward at a community meeting and taken forward as a way of encouraging villagers, community groups and businesses to change habits.

It is a great achievement for the village and illustrates that there is a want and a wish to do more to reduce the amount of plastic used given the right encouragement.

Bringing Christmas cheer to Brockenhurst!

While on the topic of Brockenhurst, we thought we’d share a few pics from the fantastically festive Brockenhurst Christmas Fun Evening, an annual tradition that took place this year on Friday 1st December on Brookley Road.

Welcome Stores has had a long association with the event which was jam-packed with local acts like the Brassed Toffs Band, Magic Jack the magician and the Friday Girls, as well as stalls selling a variety of treats on offer from local businesses, activites and fairground rides.

It was great fun watching everyone get into the Christmas spirit as our colleagues set up a stall outside our shop front in Brockenhurst and handed out free mulled wine and mince pies to residents and visitors who came to enjoy all the fun of the festive fayre – and we raised an amazing £200 for our chosen charity, Solent Mind, in the process.

We also teamed up with Plastic Free Brockenhurst to offer a few things for their raffle prize – another way we wanted to collaborate with such an important organisation following Brockenhurst’s plastic-free status!

We’re already looking forward to getting involved again next year – we hope to see you all there! 

Here are some of our favourite pictures from the day.

More shout-outs and thank yous

We must also give a special mention to our wonderful suppliers who create some fantastic products all made locally.

Wishing you all a very prosperous New Year – and watch this space for more exciting news coming your way in 2024!

This World Mental Health Day, we’re taking stock

It’s World Mental Health Day and we’re taking the time to stop and think about how we can do our bit.

Welcome Stores has been partnered up with Solent Mind for a couple of years now, successfully raising just over £3,500.

But our support goes beyond financial

Last summer a group of managers from Welcome stores headed to Mayfield Nurseries – a facility owned by Solent Mind to offer new skills to those living with mental and physical health issues. Despite the sore backs, we had a great time – you can see some of the photos we took from the day here.

At its grass roots, we know that good mental health is important to living life to its fullest – at home and at work. It’s one of many reasons Welcome Stores chose to partner with Solent Mind in the first place. It was a timely pairing, especially as we endured long lockdowns of the pandemic and time separated from loved ones took its toll.

We must of course thank all of those on the front line who continued to keep this country moving – including our own staff who worked tirelessly to ensure everyone in the community was well-looked after, no matter how old they were or how vulnerable they were.

As such, we were pleased to hear that for World Mental Health Day this year, Solent Mind will begin a campaign to attempt to close the gap on mental health inequalities.

Many people from varied backgrounds and for varied reasons face barriers when it comes to accessing mental health support. Whether it be as simple as geography, lack of access to technology, language barriers, gender-based stigma, and many more.

Starting today and in the weeks to follow, Solent Mind will be pushing out various messaging on its website and social media channels – so please do keep an eye out for that.

Sam Clarke, Communications and Marketing Lead, said: “Over the coming weeks, we will be highlighting some of the issues that are preventing people from accessing our services, and mental health services as a whole. By starting this conversation, we hope to raise awareness and start learning how to close the gap in these mental health inequalities.” For more information about Solent Mind, head to their website www.solentmind.org.uk

Welcome stores donates £3,699 to Solent Mind

It was our pleasure to visit the team at Solent Mind HQ and hand over a cheque for £3,699 to help fund the vital services that they do.

Solent Mind is our chosen charity for 2023.

We’ve actually been working with them for a few years now and they were nominated by our staff for dedication to mental health and wellbeing services for people across the south.

Poor mental health can have a much bigger impact than simply “feeling low” for a few days. It can impact our behaviour and our relationships. It can affect how we do our jobs and live our lives at home.

During the pandemic, looking after our health and wellbeing became paramount.

When Covid-19 hit, we were all worried about protecting our families and loved ones. But, there was an army of people who continued to fight and keep the country going. They were the ones who could not lock themselves away, or work from home. They were the ones who selflessly continued to serve our communities, despite the risks.

They were our amazing NHS, doctors and nurses, and social workers and they deserve all of our admiration and recognition. But there were others, like Welcome stores retail workers, who adopted that British “Keep Calm and Carry On” spirit. The great thing about our stores is that they also provided a place of familiarity at a time when many people were isolated – and that did keep us going when times were really tough.

And we’re only human.

Naturally, the worry of the unknowns in the world and doing our best to continue operating our stores and serving our customers safely took its toll – not just on our staff. We heard concerns from our customers too who were vulnerable or worried about doing their best for their family.

That’s when it became clear organisations like Solent Mind are vital for our communities, and it is our pleasure to do what we can to support them – and give something back.

Sadly, there is just not enough funding for NHS mental health services.

That is why organisations like Solent Mind are so heavily relied upon. They make sure that everyone gets access to the time and resources they need to help them get their lives back on track.

They also offer our staff access to services through our partnership, accessing guides such as dealing with mental health in the workplace, anxiety and many others, to ensure they are always feeling supported and doing the best job they can.

Jo Silsbury, Corporate Liaison Officer at Solent Mind said:

“Our corporate partnerships are so important as a way of generating all-important funding and we’re grateful to be working with Welcome Stores. Plus, it’s another way of collaborating with others to ensure we are offering the best services possible, but also spread the word about what we do – and how we can help.

“Our services were accessed by almost 55,000 people in 2021-2022 and more than 6,000 people received wellbeing services from our support centres, which are vital to our network. This latest donation from Welcome stores helps with our message to spread awareness that mental health matters, and everyone deserves to feel their best.”

Welcome digs deep for a great local charity

As part of our pledge to support local causes, Welcome stores has been working with Solent Mind for the last couple of years as our chosen charity.

On 27th September, a team of seven from Welcome’s management team headed out to Mayfield Nurseries. The nursery is a subsidiary of Solent Mind offering well-being services to people in the Solent region living with mental health problems, as well as those with learning disabilities to help them develop new gardening skills.

It was an absolutely fantastic day and we were kept busy filling a giant skip with rubbish, emptying and re-designing two offices, tidying a store room, building a massive compost heap and also fitting in some weeding! It was great to see what was achieved at the end of the day as we stood back and admired all our hard work.

But, we couldn’t have done it without the help of our team-mates at Lead Forensics – thanks so much guys! It was great to meet you.

We’d also like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Mayfield Nurseries and Solent Mind for having us – we’d love to come back soon for a visit!

We hope you enjoy a few of our snaps from the day – you can find more on Instagram @coopwelcomestores and on Facebook @WelcomeStores – don’t forget to pop us a follow while you’re there to catch all our latest updates!