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Thousands of charity shops reopen in England and Wales as new rules start

12 Apr 2021 News

The inside of one of BHF's 750 charity shops

Image credit: British Heart Foundation

Charity shops should expect “very heavy trading” as they reopen in England and Wales, the Charity Retail Association (CRA) has said.

The CRA also told shop managers that they no longer needed to isolate and clean new donations, meaning that stock can be displayed and sold more quickly.

Thousands of shops reopened today as national Covid-19 restrictions lifted, with more following suit in Scotland when rules change there later in the month.

Most charities plan to open all of their shops as soon as possible, the CRA said. After the first national lockdown ended in June last year, many staggered the process over many weeks.

Advice on donations, changing rooms and masks

Advice published by the CRA to coincide with shops reopening said: “The UK government no longer advises that donated or returned stock needs to be isolated or cleaned before being displayed on the shop floor. 

“This follows new advice to the government from Public Health England based on a review of the growing body of scientific evidence on transmission. 

“Regular hand washing and/or use of hand sanitiser remains vital when sorting donations. 

“Individual retailers can choose to continue to isolate donated stock for a period if they feel this is appropriate, but this is no longer a requirement or expectation set out in UK government guidance.”

The CRA also advised that shops can open their changing rooms if they wish, unlike after the first national lockdown.

Staff will be required to wear masks in England and Wales, except if they are serving behind a protective screen. Full PPE is not required.

CRA: Shops can bounce back

Robin Osterley, the chief executive of the CRA, said: “We are anticipating very strong trading when charity shops reopen, driven by high levels of stock as people donate large volumes of pre-loved belongings stored up during lockdown. 

“Most charity shops will be reopening their doors today and are well prepared to bounce back to life right away. 

“There are comprehensive measures in place to keep people safe and innovative plans to deal with large volumes of donations.” 

Call for volunteers

Oxfam, which opened 515 of its shops this morning, said it was looking for volunteers to help.

Tom Richardson, head of retail operations at the charity, said: “We are so pleased to be able to welcome people back into Oxfam shops in England and Wales on Monday and our teams have been working tirelessly to ensure we can do this safely. 

“People may have spent time during lockdown de-cluttering, so our team of dedicated volunteers are looking forward to accepting generous donations. As always, we are looking for things like good quality, clean clothing, books and homewares. 

“We expect that there will be lots of brilliant second-hand gems for our customers to discover. We’d really welcome more hands on deck to help support our shops to reopen.”

St Barnabas Hospice in Worthing also called for volunteers to help with shop reopening, as it revealed that lockdown had cost the charity £1,000 a month.

Caroline Peach, head of retail at St Barnabas, said: “We are so excited to be able to open up again. We’d welcome any help, and no commitment is too small. 

“If you can only commit short-term, we are able to offer arrangements for those who might have gaps between jobs or have time during the summer holidays. 

“Our volunteers mean that we can run our shops smoothly, and customers are able to support us with their generous donations and purchases.”

Safety is 'number one priority'

Cancer Research UK said that around 500 of its 600 shops have reopened this morning, with more stores in Scotland set to open in a fortnight. 

Meanwhile over 500 British Heart Foundation shops have also opened.

Allison Swaine-Hughes, the retail director at BHF, said: “We are thrilled to get our shops back up and running across England and Wales next week and look forward to welcoming our customers, staff and volunteers through the doors. 

“As we reopen, our number one priority will be ensuring the safety of everyone who shops, works and volunteers with us.”

Two more of the largest charity retailers, Sue Ryder and Barnardo’s, also confirmed that they have reopened all their shops in England.

David Longmore, head of retail operations at Barnardo’s, said: “The lockdowns and subsequent shop closures over the past year have had a significant impact on our ability to raise much needed funds to support vulnerable children and young people. 

“However, our stores exceeded our expectations after each national and local lockdown, and we received more donations than the previous year: about 10% more during the summer.”

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