Charity shop data shows government Covid-19 schemes transformed finances

04 Oct 2021 News

Emergency government funding transformed finances at charity retailers during the pandemic, new data shows.

The 2021 charity shops survey, conducted for Charity Finance magazine, shows that the furlough scheme and other Covid-19 programmes were worth tens of millions of pounds to charity retailers, helping them limit and even reverse large losses incurred when shops were closed.

The survey collected detailed data from 28 charities. This included information about income from the furlough scheme, as well as three other sources of government support set up at the start of the pandemic.

The full survey results are published in October’s issue of Charity Finance.

From loss to surplus

Charity shop networks suffered multi-million-pound operational losses during 2020-21. However, the charity shop survey shows that emergency government schemes were successful in protecting retailers against these losses.

The charities in the survey received more than £80m through the furlough scheme alone, and millions more from the other government programmes.

The survey shows that 25 out of 28 charity retailers recorded an operational loss last year but that, once government help is factored in, all but three of those charities showed an overall surplus.

Big four

Barnardo’s recorded a £13m trading loss, but government funding meant its retail operations showed an £11.8m surplus. Losses of just under £10m at Cancer Research UK shops became a surplus of more than £3m.

Two of the UK’s other largest charity retailers, the British Heart Foundation and Oxfam GB, saw their losses substantially reduced.


The furlough scheme was used by all the charities in the survey, with 11 claiming more than £1m through the programme.

Furlough was especially important at some of the smaller charity shop networks. Keech Hospice Care’s operational losses of just under £1m were almost entirely balanced by furlough income across the charity, while Air Ambulance recovered over half of its losses through the furlough scheme.


Five charities received £1m or more through retail, hospitality and leisure grants. At both Islamic Relief Worldwide and Extracare Charitable Trust, these grants on their own were larger than the charities’ operating losses.

In addition to the government help, several charities told Charity Finance that they had successfully negotiated lower rents on their shops, adding up to savings worth millions of pounds. Others voiced anger that landlords had refused to offer a discount even while stores were closed.

The full survey and analysis is in the October issue of Charity Finance magazine.

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