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Charity shops see ‘rip roaring’ sales in first month after lockdown

19 May 2021 News

A Sense charity shop

Charity shops have enjoyed record sales since trading resumed a month ago, with some reporting that their like-for-like sales are up by over 25%.

British Heart Foundation, Barnardo’s and Sense are among the charities that told Civil Society News that their shop sales were substantially higher this April and May when compared to the same period before the pandemic struck.

The Charity Retail Association (CRA) welcomed the fact that charity shops had enjoyed “a rip-roaring start” after being closed for so long.

The CRA has estimated that shop closures cost the sector £28m each month that they were closed during the pandemic. 

Barnardo’s: 'No better time to bag yourself a bargain'

Barnardo’s told Civil Society News that sales since its shops reopened on 12 April are up 28%, compared with the same period in 2019.

David Longmore, head of retail operations at Barnardo’s, said: “We are delighted that the first month of trading after lockdown has gone so well, and would like to thank the thousands of old and new customers we have welcomed through our doors.

“As they have discovered, there’s no better time to bag yourself a bargain in your local Barnardo’s shop.”

Sense: 'Overwhelmed by the support' 

Sense, which also enjoyed a record-breaking first day of shop trading after the third lockdown lifted, said that its like-for-like sales were up 23% in the last month.

Adrian Darkin, the charity’s director of trading, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support from our communities across the country this past month. 

“The return to the high street has been very much welcomed by our staff, volunteers as well as customers visiting the shops, and together we’ve been reflecting on the past year and looking ahead at what’s to come. 

“We hope to welcome back many more customers these next few months and with more restrictions lifting.”

BHF: 'Sales are now exceeding half a million pounds a day'

The British Heart Foundation, which has the largest network of charity shops in the country, said that like-for-like sales were up 11%.

The charity added that sale of home and garden goods was especially high, up 22% compared with the same period in 2019.

Mike Taylor, the commercial director at BHF, said: “Overall shop sales are now exceeding half a million pounds a day and we expect them to level off at this rate over the summer if restrictions continue to ease.”

Taylor also said that donations have now “settled at similar levels to two years ago, but we are always keen to receive more”. 

Cancer Research UK: 'Fantastic response'

Cancer Research UK said that sales in April and May were up 75%, compared with December 2020. 

Josephine Mewett, head of retail operations at Cancer Research UK, said that since most of its shops opened on 12 April there had been “a fantastic response from our supporters”. 

She added: “The pandemic has put a huge strain on charities, so it’s truly heartening to be welcoming our staff, volunteers and customers once again.”

The charity made sales worth £500,000 on the first day shops reopened, twice its target.

Age UK: 'Our retail arm will be more tech enabled to appeal to younger shoppers'

Age UK reported that income from its charity shops was up 27% compared with 2019.

The charity also confirmed that it took the “difficult decision” last year to close some of its shops permanently.

Age UK said that it was “diversifying” its trading strategy, and believed the pandemic would accelerate the charity’s move away from relying on “bricks and mortar trading”.

A spokesperson said: “Despite the closure of a number of Age UK’s charity shops, our strategic ambition is to diversify our retail trading platforms through a review of shop location and type, combined with multichannel development of alternative income streams, such as our online shop.

“Looking ahead as we look to develop alternative income streams and grow our multichannel operation, our retail arm will be more tech-enabled to appeal to younger shoppers, data driven and less reliant only on our ‘bricks and mortar’ trading.

“Our hope is that this will ensure that the impact [of shop closures] is marginalised over time, not only in terms of income but also with regards to improved profitability.”

CRA: 'Rip-roaring start for charity shops'

The CRA said the figures show that people value charity shops. 

Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA, said: “We’re delighted that trading has got off to such a rip-roaring start for charity shops, with so many of our members reporting record sales. 

“It’s important to realise that this is not just about the aspect of more people needing to shop in charity shops due to economic circumstances, but also about people still wanting to shop in charity shops for the variety, fantastic value for money and positive environmental impact they contribute.

“We are, as ever, very grateful to the public for their support in buying and donating in the service of good causes.” 

Charity Finance magazine, which is published by Civil Society Media, will be contacting charities later this month to start collecting data for the Charity Shop Survey 2021. For more information about how your charity could be involved email [email protected]

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.


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