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Building local communities

In FY20, during the first Covid-19 lockdown, our colleagues set up Facebook groups in their store communities, firstly using social media to help organise local initiatives to help the NHS, care homes, and to support vulnerable individuals, then to understand local customer and colleague sentiment about store re-openings. We saw the potential to develop more meaningful connections with our local communities and have since focused our efforts on strengthening our 175 Facebook groups – one for every store. At year end FY21 we had over 700,000 Facebook followers (FY20: 152,000), above our informal internal target of 555,000.

These thriving groups were instrumental in helping to communicate and co-ordinate this year’s community campaigns that we ran when stores were open:

  • Delivering joy: through our Christmas campaign, customers and colleagues donated over 18,000 gifts which were delivered by store colleagues to local care homes, women’s refuges and underprivileged children.
  • Delivering kindness: 2,000 blankets were collected in store and donated to homeless shelters and dog homes, 200 trolleys of donated food were distributed to local food banks and 1,200 cards were sent to people in care homes, hospices and hospitals, including Great Ormond Street Hospital. Cards included pictures and notes organised through our Facebook groups.
  • Delivering sunshine is a smaller initiative, with a more sustainable/environmental theme – engaging with local schools to distribute sunflower seeds and run growing competitions, rejuvenating local buildings with hanging baskets and planting, and giving away wildlife-related items such as bird boxes. 

In some stores we have opened up our Pausa cafes in the evenings to local communities, and have welcomed knitting groups, young parent groups, Scout meetings and book clubs. We are setting up panels to investigate more ways of benefiting our local communities through our Pausa hubs – from product tasting and samplings to promoting local businesses through online community notice boards.

Charity contributions

We continued to support our Group charity partner, Macmillan Cancer Support and, in Wales, Groundwork, during the year. As store lockdowns hampered our fundraising activities the Board agreed to make a ‘top up’ donation of £112.5k to Macmillan Cancer Support – bringing the total donated since the start of our partnership in February 2019 to £1.3 million.

We rotate our chosen Group charity partner every two years. This year, colleagues voted for our new charity partner, Mind, via our ‘Home Comforts’ intranet. Our CEO, Nick announced our new partnership in July 2021 alongside a £112.5k ‘starter’ contribution. We are excited to explore how we can link our community activities with Mind’s 160 stores. Overall, our fundraising and Group cash charity contributions amounted to £580k in the year (FY20: £638k) in line with our pre- Covid contribution in FY19. These figures exclude the costs associated with operating our Facebook groups and the community campaigns referred to opposite which we do not quantify.

 

Colleague volunteering

Every Dunelm colleague is encouraged to take up their annual paid day off to volunteer or provide support for a charity and this proved difficult during Covid-19 restrictions. Nonetheless, groups of colleagues undertook projects such as weeding and planting in their local communities. We aim to promote and better monitor this important aspect of local community engagement, including co-ordinating colleague volunteer days in Mind charity shops and projects.

Keeping it local

We keep an eye out for local opportunities to repurpose products and encourage recycling and reuse. We provide used store packaging free of charge for house movers and recirculate these boxes for as long as possible.

We donate cardboard rolls to local schools for craft projects and promote suggestions via our Facebook groups on how to upcycle old items – for example using colanders as hanging baskets and loaf tins as window-sill planters. We advertise ‘Second life Sundays’ locally, where we sell less-than-perfect stock and we are linking up stores with local recycling enterprises. In and around Exeter, for example, we are
collecting old candles and candle wax on behalf of a local entrepreneur who turns these into new candles.