VOLUNTEERS at Whitby’s RNLI shop are celebrating the announcement that they have taken over £3 million since the store opened its doors in 1958, making it the charity’s most successful shop in the country.
The shop opened as part of the Whitby RNLI Lifeboat Museum, which was founded in 1958 by Eric Thomson in the town’s old lifeboat station after the last rowing lifeboat in the British Isles was taken off service.
Eric was Lifeboat Operations Manager at the station before its closure. He then had the brainwave of turning the building into a museum for future generations to enjoy.
Alison Thomson, RNLI regional retail manager north, said: “Of the £3M taken since 1958, it is notable that £1M of this has been in the past five years, when the country has been in the grip of a recession. It is amazing that people have continued to support our shop so passionately and I would like to thank all our customers old and new alike.”
For the first few years shop takings averaged around £500. Eric’s son Pete Thomson, who later became Lifeboat Mechanic and Coxswain/Mechanic at Whitby RNLI lifeboat station, then started helping in the shop in 1964 and annual takings reached about £700.
In 1985, Pete took over from his father and became curator of the museum. He also looked after the shop and yearly takings reached £28,000. Pete now focuses on managing the museum.
Alison Thomson started to volunteer in the shop in 1989 and also took over the role of ordering stock. She was made manager in 1993 and annual takings rose to £58,000.
In 1999 accumulated shop sales since 1958 reached £1M and in 2007 sales exceeded £2M.
In 2008 the shop was fully refurbished and takings exceeded £200,000 in one year.
Now the shop has passed its latest milestone, raising an amazing £3M since 1958.
Alison added: ‘All the money raised by our shop goes directly to helping RNLI crews and lifeguards save lives at sea and this means that customers really do make a difference by shopping with us.’
The shop stocks a wide range of the charity’s products, ranging from homewares and clothing, through to tasty treats and greetings cards.
The band of 16 hard-working shop volunteers are now looking forward to building on their success in the run up to Christmas, through the sale of festive cards, calendars and diaries.
In the late 1980s Eric Thomson was made Honorary Life Governor with the RNLI in recognition of his valued service to the charity.
The shop is open daily, weather permitting, until 23 December. In Autumn and Winter trading times are 11am until 4pm.
Friends of Whitby Lifeboat are presenting a “Friendship Evening” at the Friendship Rowing Club tonight, from 7.30pm until midnight.
There will be live music by John Berriman, with lots of prizes to be had.
Ticjets cost £5 and all are welcome, with proceeds going to Whitby’s RNLI team.
Tickets are available at the RNLI shop on Pier Road, the Endeavour Pub on Church Street, or by calling John on (01947) 602252.