A pop-up shop in the chantry centre which provides vital funds to a town charity has been officially opened.

The Mayor of Test Valley, Councillor Martin Hatley, opened Andover VIP’s pop-up shop in the Chantry Centre on April 27. The charity raises funds to support those with visual impairments, supporting around 400 people in and around Andover.

The Mayor praised the charity’s venture into bricks and mortar, saying: “I just hope everyone who couldn’t go to the shops during various lockdowns will go back now. If you don’t use them, you lose them.”

Andover VIP’s was established in 1992, and provides a variety of activities for those who are visually impaired. It is run by a team of visually impaired people alongside sighted volunteers.

Janet Mason, from the charity, joked about the name with the mayor, saying: "We're very important people, and we're visually impaired as well."

The pop-up shop in the Chantry Centre has been established as part of Test Valley Borough Council’s drive to fill units in the shopping complex, including with temporary shops and markets.

Andover VIPs shop will be in place for three weeks from April 20, with the charity saying it had “a very good first week” of business, with visually impaired volunteers coming by to help run the shop.

“We’ve been made very welcome by the Chantry Centre,” said Janet Mason. “It’s a good use of empty space. It’s been lovely.”

The charity has been helped to set up its shop by others in town, with the British Heart Foundation donating pieces for sale, while Neighbourcare has provided books to stock the shop. In return, Andover VIP’s will donate back to them later.

This aspect of the shop was praised by the mayor, who said: “More charities can act in a mutual fashion, that’s good.

“The British are known for volunteering, and it seems all charities are like little families and clubs.”

Janet agreed, saying: “We’ve done very well really, considering everything is donated.”

The shop will be open until May, and is open daily from 9am.

For more information on the charity, visit: http://www.andovervips.co.uk/