Major charity retailers saw income and profits fall ahead of coronavirus, survey finds

01 Oct 2020 News

Income and profits fell overall last year at the largest charity shop retailers, according the latest Charity Shops Survey.

The report, published today by Civil Society Media's Charity Finance magazine, compiles data on 30 charity retail chains. This includes the four with the most charity shops in the UK: the British Heart Foundation (BHF); Cancer Research UK; Oxfam GB; and Sue Ryder.

BHF was the only one of these charities to see rising income from its charity shops, growing by a little over 1% between March 2019 and March 2020. Its total retail income is just under £200m.

The other three charities all saw their income drop by around 1%. A small reduction in charity retail income broadly matches the trends for the high street in general, where research shows sales dropped by under 1% last year.

Falling profits

Meanwhile, total profits were sharply down for each of the four charities.

Annual profits dropped by 12.7% at Oxfam GB, 15.3% at Cancer Research UK, by 26.7% at Sue Ryder and by 39% at BHF, compared to 2018-19.

Three of these charities opened more new shops overall in 2019-20, but Oxfam GB ended the year with 12 fewer retail outlets.

Across the full sample of 30 charities, income was up by 3.1% but costs were up by 4.9%, leaving profits down by 1.4% overall.

One charity which saw both income and profit rise was Traid, which has 11 shops across the UK. Its shops generated 14% more profit than in 2018-19.

The impact of Covid-19

All the charities in the survey raised concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the closure of the whole retail sector earlier in the year, leading to millions in losses for the sector.

However, some voluntary organisations also argued that charities will have a crucial role to play in difficult economic times.

Debra, which supports people affected by Epidermolysis Bullosa, said: “With the highly anticipated increase in unemployment, and inevitable UK economic recession, more and more people will turn to charity shops in order to save money.”

The Ayrshire Hospice said that “the impending economic crisis arising from coronavirus may drive an associated upturn in charity shop sales, if the pattern from previous economic crises is mirrored this time around”.

And Cancer Research UK said: “With a likely recession starting very soon, charity shops may well serve our communities even more.”

Full data and analysis of the Charity Shops Survey 2020 can be read in the new Charity Finance.

Charity Finance is packed with practical articles and analysis of the latest financial trends, as well as in-depth briefings on technical and legal changes, and benchmarking surveys to help busy finance teams get value for money. Find more information here and subscribe today!

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