Stephen Cotterill: Will charity retail resurface this winter?

17 Nov 2021 Voices

It's been a rough couple of years for charity retail, but there are reasons to be cheerful

A woman holding a "donations" cardboard box, with hung clothes in the background


As I write this, the number of Covid-19 cases is spiking, so there is every possibility that the resurfacing of restrictions will make what I am about to write null and void. But I am tentatively optimistic about income from charity retail over the next few months.

Those charities that have managed to maintain retail operations could be set for an extended festive bonanza for a number of reasons, providing of course we are not all forced back into lockdown.

Firstly, people haven’t been able to shop, so there is a lot of pent-up energy for spending. As the end of last year proved, people can’t wait to race back to the high streets and spend, with charities such as the British Heart Foundation and Florence Nightingale Hospice seeing record-breaking sales.

Secondly, charity shops have never been better stocked. Lockdown clear-outs and targeted declutter campaigns calling for donations have unearthed vast amounts of re-saleable clobber, pre-loved furniture and the occasional priceless antique. So much so, that some charities have had to seek extra storage space for the volume of donations they have received since opening again.

Thirdly, there is no escaping the fact that the future economic prosperity of the UK is uncertain. Brexit, Covid-19, energy costs and inflation are all dampening influences on the disposable income levels of the country’s households. Charity shops are well positioned to cater for bargain hunters and those with thrift in mind.

And finally, I do believe that one positive thing to come out of the pandemic is that people are more engaged with charities and more keenly recognise the need to support them. People gave a lot during the pandemic to a range of causes old and new. This may well translate into higher till receipts at charity shops as Christmas approaches... at least let’s hope so. 

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