Help Refugees: Choose Love pop-up shop

Exhibited by
Ben Eden-Davies
August 21, 2019
Medium of Communication
Charity shop
Target Audience
All audiences; shoppers
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

What a fantastic variation on the charity shop. Help Refugees energised their supporters by tapping into the Christmas shopping frenzy. But they did it with a key difference – they weren't selling anything. Their pop-up shops provided donors/customers with a unique and tangible participation. By taking their cause into the world of retail they amplified their need and gave supporters a sense of involvement. In a world where digital and online platforms seem to be taking over, this proves that few things beat a real, interactive donor experience.

Creator / originator

Help Refugees with Glimpse (agency).


Help Refugees started as nothing more than a hashtag in August 2015.

A group of friends wanted to raise £1,000 and fill a van full of donations to take down to the Jungle refugee camp in Calais, northern France. Within a week they had raised £56,000 and were soon receiving 7,000 items every day.

Fast foward four years and Help Refugees have helped almost 1 million people, managed over 30,000 volunteers, and supported over 100 projects across Europe and the Middle East. They take a fieldwork-first approach to aid, establishing local networks and working with local partners to deliver projects.

In 2017 Help Refugees wanted to try something different and to use all the hype around Black Friday and Christmas shopping as a means to highlight refugee issues. 

Instead of gadgets and jeans, what would happen if shoppers bought items that could make a real difference to someone’s life? 

As a customer you could go in to a real store, shop your heart out, leave with nothing, and feel the love.

Help Refugees collaborated with creative collective Glimpse to bring this idea together.

Glimpse are super exciting. They bring a do-it-yourself (DIY) can-do attitude, they don't wait for briefs, they look for ways to use skills and good will to have a positive impact.

They are a voluntary collection of professionals and they built this idea on a great insight about people being tired of consumerism but still wanting be out on the high streets. 

Summary / objectives

'Christmas is a time of giving in abundance, but it makes you think about people who aren’t as lucky as we are,' 

said Josie Naughton, the chief executive of Help Refugees. 

'When you look at the stats of how much money is spent on Black Friday and compare that to the need in the world, it’s quite shocking. We just really wanted to show there was another way to look at consumerism and another way to look at Black Friday.'


So Choose Love, the world’s first store where you could buy real gifts for refugees, containing practical items like tents, nappies and sleeping bags was set up in Carnaby Street, London. But instead of taking them home, each purchase buys a similar item for someone who truly needs it.

It ran from Black Friday until Christmas Eve both in 2017 and 2018, and will do the same in 2019.

It was stylised, spoke to the audience and had clear and appealable price points.

Help Refugees were expecting their audience for the Choose Love store to be 65 per cent female, usually well-educated, passionate about making the world better, and often based in London. Some would say ‘liberal elite’. Instead, the donors that came to the shop came from all walks of life and all sorts of backgrounds.

30,000 ‘customers’ from 61 countries visited Choose Love in the 2018 festive period, and media coverage of the shop reached 693 million people worldwide. In real terms, the amount of ad spend required to get that reach would have been an estimated £6.4m.

The total raised since the first Choose Love store opened is three million pounds.

Influence / impact

In 2018 Help Refugees launched the Choose Love shop in New York as well as London.

In June 2019 they opened up a London shoe shop that didn't sell shoes: the Choose Love x A Mile in My Shoes exhibition was launched for Refugee Week. Visitors had the chance to borrow a pair of shoes belonging to a refugee and take a walk with a headset while listening to a first-hand story of their life.

The Choose Love stores will be back again in autumn 2019 with another shop planned in a secret location.


With Choose Love, Help Refugees demonstrate that it’s good to tap into networks and use people who care about your cause for their own strengths. Consumer expectations are changing: the next generation of charity supporters will expect something very different to what they’ve settled for in the past. The Choose Love Pop Up store has reinvented what the words charity shop stand for. 

They’ve proved that when you make a stand and take a risk, it doesn’t matter if you don’t appeal to everyone, because the people you do appeal to will come to you – and they’ll surprise you. In a world where digital sometimes feel like it's taking over, people still want an experience more than ever. They want something they can see and touch, and that’s what will inspire them to dig into their pocket.

Other relevant information

Ben Eden-Davies presented this case study at SOFII's I Wish I'd Thought Of That (IWITOT) session at Fundraising Convention 2019 run by the UK's Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIoF).

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Help Refugees wanted to involve themselves with the Black Friday shopping spree by setting up a pop-up shop with a difference.
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The shop was set up on London’s iconic Carnaby Street.
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The Choose Love shop didn’t actually sell anything but allowed visitors to ‘purchase’ items needed by refugees.
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Items for sale included blankets, boots and thermos flasks.
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Help Refugees worked with an innovative volunteer agency called Glimpse.
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Customers came from all walks of life.
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They have since opened a Choose Love store in New York with another planned in 2019 in a secret location.
Help Refugees even set up, for one week only, a shoe shop that allowed donors to walk in the shoes of refugees, literally.