Some charity shops will reopen next month after introducing new guidelines for customers and donors to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
The confirmation by some large charities comes as the government calls for non-essential shops across the country to prepare for re-opening from the middle of June.
Opening in June
The British Heart Foundation, which has the largest number of charity shops in the UK, plans to open a small number of its stores from mid-June, according to the BBC.
Barnardo’s has also confirmed to Civil Society News that it plans to reopen 70 shops – about one in 10 of all its stores – on 15 June. Save the Children says that it is taking a "phased approach" to reopening its charity shops, and also plans to reopen its first stores on 15 June.
Cancer Research UK says that it will start a staggered re-opening of its charity shops, beginning on 29 June.
A spokesperson for Sue Ryder, which has around 500 charity shops, said that the charity plans “to open a small number of shops in June with additional safety measures in place to protect our staff, volunteers and customers”. The charity will look at opening more shops in July and August if it can be done safely.
‘Expecting an influx of donations’
A Barnardo’s spokesperson said that the charity would be making a number of changes to how their shops are run, in order to follow the guidelines around the pandemic.
They said: “As people may have spent lockdown doing a little tidying and sorting around the house, we are expecting an influx of donations when we return. To help manage this we are advising our customers to call their local store before taking any donations to ensure the shop is able to take the items.
“We will be putting safety measures in place to protect staff and customers, including perspex screens at till points, hand sanitiser station at the entrance of the store, restricted customer numbers and social distancing requirements, safety packs for staff, including aprons, gloves, additional cleaning products etc, and the changing rooms will be closed.”
Kate Avenell, head of shop development at Save the Children, said: “Following the Government’s advice that British retailers can re-open shops from the 15th June, we have begun carefully planning a phased approach to establish a safe way to re-open our shops across the UK, keeping the safety of our staff, volunteers and supporters at the forefront of our plans.
“Logistically, there are many hurdles to overcome. For example, we are expecting a large volume of goods to be donated and these goods may need to be isolated for 72 hours.
"Because of this we are currently focused on exploring every necessary precaution and are currently working towards opening a handful of stores in the coming months, and then taking a flexible approach to opening the remaining stores as and when it is safe to do so”.
St Barnabas Hospice, which has 26 stores in Lincolnshire with a combined income of £16m over the last eight years, has responded to the pressure by introducing a “donation drive-thru” system.
Caroline Peach, head of retail at St Barnabas Hospice, said: “Before we can open any of the shops, we need to reintroduce item donations at our warehouse in Lincoln.
“Plans are currently underway for a ‘book and bring’ donation drive-thru at the warehouse on Cardinal Close, which we are really excited about. People will be able to book a time slot to bring their donations and our car park has a fantastic one-way system so supporters can essentially use it like a drive-thru.”
The charity has also asked donors to “focus on quality over quantity”, in recognition that store managers may struggle to recycle unsold donations. The Textile Retail Association told Civil Society News last week that, as a result of the impact of the coronavirus crisis overseas, the market value of excess stock in UK charity shops was “basically zero”.
St Barnabas shops will remain closed until at least the end of June, the charity said.
Editor's note: This story was updated to include information provided by Save the Children