More than 2,000 charity shops to close across the country

19 Mar 2020 News

Oxfam shop

Matt Jerwood

Some of the biggest retail charities in the UK have announced the temporary closure of their charity shops because of coronavirus.

British Heart Foundation, Oxfam, Cancer Research UK and Save The Children have all said they are closing their charity shops to protect their staff, volunteers and donors. In total, this amounts to more than 2,000 charity shops across the country.

BHF’s shops closed from today

BHF has closed its 750 shops starting from today for two weeks.

Allison Swaine-Hughes, retail director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “As significant numbers of our volunteers, staff, customers and donors are in a high-risk group or are directly affected by heart and circulatory disease, it’s only right that we close our 750 shops and stores. Without the invaluable contributions of our staff and volunteers, it is not possible for us to operate normally.”

According to Civil Society Media’s Charity Shops Survey 2019, BHF’s charity shops raised £191m for the charity last year.

Oxfam to close its shops from Sunday

Oxfam’s shops will not close immediately, but will be open until close of business Saturday 21 March.

The charity has around 600 shops across the UK and about 20,000 volunteers working in them. Its online shop will remain open.

Anne Webb, deputy trading director at Oxfam, said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to shut our shops until the danger of the coronavirus has eased.

“But it’s absolutely the right thing to do as the safety of our staff, volunteers and shoppers comes first. Some of our volunteers are elderly and especially vulnerable to the infection, and we are acutely conscious of our responsibilities towards them.”

Last year, Oxfam’s charity shops generated around £91m of income for the charity.

Cancer Research UK shops to close between today and tomorrow

Cancer Research UK is also closing its 600 shops between today and tomorrow. Shops in London will close at 4pm today, while the rest of the country will follow 24 hours later.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Over the past fortnight our shops have raised £2.4m to help fund vital cancer research, which is an incredible achievement in exceptional times.

"However, the chain relies on the unswerving support of thousands of dedicated volunteers and customers - many of whom are older people - and ensuring their wellbeing is paramount. We will continue to serve our loyal customers through our eBay and online shop until we can safely open our doors again.”

Save The Children’s shops closed from today

Finally, Save The Children announced yesterday that its 126 shops would be closed from today. The charity said that 53 were already unable to open yesterday as volunteers followed government’s advice to avoid unnecessary social contact.

The charity said the shops generate about £900,000 income and £60,000 profit for the charity every month.

The charity said in a statement: “The decision was taken primarily to protect the health of 3,500 volunteers, many of them elderly, who keep the shops running. Seventy retail employees are being asked to work from home on full pay.”

Ian Matthews, trade director at Save the Children UK, said: “The past few days have been some of the most difficult and surreal times any of us will have faced in both our personal and professional lives.

“Yet it has also demonstrated some extraordinary teamwork, collaboration, commitment and passion for Save The Children – all qualities that will enable us to work through these uncertain times while we prepare for re-opening when possible.

“We’re taking this step to help volunteers stay safe and I want to thank every one of them for their dedication.”

On Tuesday, the Charity Retail Association (CRA) urged the government to support charity shops during the emergency.

Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA, said: “We have asked for government assistance to ensure that the sector can rebuild after the virus outbreak ends, specifically in the form of grant funding and loans, rents and rates relief and increased funding for the wider charity sector.”

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