After reaching out to the Level Trust to learn how The Mall Luton (UK) could help its community, the team discovered that the charity was looking for retail space to serve as a public connection point. Working together, the pair designed a first-floor unit.

Mall staff volunteered their time to show the shop a little love before its opening. Gathering to paint, clean, stock, and set up the store, the group transformed the vacant space into The Uniform Exchange. With helping hands from all departments, volunteers took on roles complementary to their skill set and included security officers, office workers, and maintenance and management staff members.

With a mission to reduce the effect that poverty has on children and their school experience, Level Trust works in partnership with schools to support families struggling financially. Providing basic necessities like shoes, winter coats, school uniforms, learning equipment for the home, and enrichment activities over the holidays, the charity works on an exchange system and encourages families to both give and receive.

“[Ours is] a mall situated in the very heart of the community we serve. As such, our guests/shoppers are incredibly important to us. Level Trust serves the most vulnerable, in-need people living in this community, and as school children, the future of this community…Communities thrive when people just take the time to help one another. This charity, and this specific project, is all about that,” explained Lavinia Douglass, marketing manager.

With a soft opening just in time for the back-to-school season, The Uniform Exchange has experienced steady traffic, a high level of engagement, and positive feedback. Still to come: its official launch. Scheduled for November, right before the holiday, the store will soon be officially open for business.

“It’s the place where we come into regular contact with families and children. Most importantly, it’s somewhere families can come to get the material things they need, rather than advice or signposting. The exchange model works because it creates a balance. On the whole, people don’t just want to take, they want to give as well, and when given the chance they’re incredibly generous,” noted Jane Malcolm, director of Level Trust.

With no prior experience transforming a retail space and a short time frame, Level Trust looked to the project coordinator for Capital & Regional, Damian Macpherson, for guidance. Throughout the process, a network of people, partners, companies, and other organizations contributed their time, talent, and efforts to ensure the project’s success.