Too many charity shops look similar and more retail managers should try to make their stores unique, the chief executive of Sue Ryder has said.
Speaking at the Charity Retail Conference 2018, Heidi Travis said there was an opportunity for charity shops in the coming years as there is a growing consumer preference for small niche retailers.
Travis, who was previously Sue Ryder’s director of retail, said it is not essential for charities to sell items on-line but warned against doing so half-heartedly.
She said: “Decide to make your shops unique. I do think that we are all starting to look very similar and I think the clever ones amongst you will differentiate.
“I do believe that in about ten years’ time, a charity retailer who hasn’t set their future out to be something different today, will be behind the curve. So be brave, and try new things.
“Trials are a force for good. Nothing lost, nothing gained. You may find that your board or your team might think it is a waste of money […] but you are going to learn something from it.
“You’ve got great brands in your shops. You’ve got value, you can have bought-in goods, you can create unique, exciting shops and make your brand unique. So excite your customers and make them want to buy from you.”
Travis said it was important for charity retailers to make choices, particularly about whether or not to open online stores.
She said: “You can choose not to have online, or you can think it is your answer to growth but you need to make a choice and then get on with it, because then you know what your proposition is and you know what it is you are trying to deal with.
“More than anything I think you need to be making choices. Your shop chain size, your shop size, your product pricing, whether you are going to do new goods or not.
“Maybe what you do do is grab online and make it work for you. If you don’t want to invest in digital and IT, then trade locally on eBay. Set small targets and do it really well. Close your unprofitable shops and open in good locations.”
She added: “I think with where the customers are moving to, you are poised as charity retailers to ride that success of the small niche retailer.”
The Charity Shops Survey 2018 is currently open to responses. For more information, click here.