Four of the largest charity retail chains lost a combined £70m when shops were forced to close during the pandemic, new data shows.
The 2021 Charity Shops Survey, carried out for Charity Finance magazine and published later this week, also shows that the biggest chains closed nearly 90 stores between them last year.
The average charity shop in the survey was open for just 22 weeks last year, due to a series of national and regional lockdowns, with some chains opening stores for just 15 weeks. The average in 2019 was 48 weeks.
The charity shop survey collected detailed data from 28 charities, including four voluntary organisations which run the largest shop networks in the country: the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Oxfam GB and Barnardo’s.
The data showed that BHF’s shops made an operational loss of £41.1m in 2020, while Barnardo’s lost £13.1m. Oxfam GB lost £12.9m and CRUK’s network of stores lost £9.7m.
Shops run by the Children’s Society, one of the first charities to warn about the financial impact of closing trading networks at the start of the pandemic, lost just over £5m.
Operational loss refers to the income the shops brought in minus the costs of running those shops, and does not include any emergency government support or grants.
Although three charities in the survey did record an operational surplus – Mind, Islamic Relief Worldwide and the Dame Hannah Rogers Trust – this was a small fraction of the profits achieved in 2019.
The four biggest charity networks in the survey all reported closing shops last year. Barnardo’s ended the year with 28 fewer shops, while Oxfam had 26 fewer. BHF ended 2020 with 21 fewer stores and CRUK were down 14.
Last year, these four charities opened 16 more shops than they closed.
BHF still has the largest retail network, and ran 721 stores at the end of last year.
The full charity shop survey 2021 results are included in the October issue of Charity Finance, which is published by Civil Society Media.