UK's largest charity shop retailers revealed in survey

02 Oct 2017 News

The British Heart Foundation has topped this year's list of the largest charity retail chains, published today in the Charity Shops Survey.

The 26th annual Charity Shops Survey 2017 is published today by Civil Society Media's Charity Finance magazine in association with Fundraising magazine, and sponsored by the Charity Retail Association.

It collected data from 76 charities operating 6,722 shops, with a combined income of more than £863m. The figures cover charities’ most recent financial years, which for most respondents was the 12 months leading to March 2017.

BHF generated £176.4m from its shops in 2016/17 and also has the largest number of shops, with 724 outlets across the UK.

Barnardo's, however, is closing in on BHF's fleet, opening 31 shops during the year to now have 710.

This is the full top ten, ranked by income:

  1. British Heart Foundation, income: £176.4m, shops: 724
  2. Oxfam GB, income: £92.5m, shops: 640
  3. Cancer Research UK, income: £84.5m, shops: 594
  4. Barnardo's, income: £70.3m, shops: 710
  5. Sue Ryder, income: £55.0m, shops: 451
  6. Salvation Army, income: £48.0m, shops: 230
  7. Age UK, income: £42.6m, shops: 404
  8. British Red Cross, income: £30.0m, shops: 341
  9. Scope, income: £21.3m, shops: 225
  10. Marie Curie, income: £16.4m, shops: 178

An end to expansion?

For the first time in 14 years, respondents to this year’s survey have opened no more shops than they have closed.

The reason for the lack of expansion this year is uncertain, but it is likely that it is related to tough conditions in recent years. Shop openings and closures are planned well in advance, with a long lead time, so the levelling off this year could be a lag indicator.

Some charities are still growing – most notably Barnardo’s, which opened another 31 shops on top of the 89 stores it opened the previous year.

Other organisations that recorded net openings are Cats Protection, Salvation Army and Sense. While at the other end of the scale, YMCA England had the most net closures, with 24 fewer shops at the end of the year than at the start.

Arthritis Research UK, meanwhile, recently announced its plan to close all its shops by the end of this year.

Profits down

Meanwhile, profits have fallen for the second year running. Even though retail income has increased by 2.7 per cent this year, a higher rate than the previous year, costs have risen by 4.1 per cent.

This means that profits have fallen again, this time by 2.0 per cent, though this is an improvement on last year’s 11.6 per cent plummet.

Part of the reason for this is a 4.7 per cent increase in staff costs, which have been pushed up by the introduction of the National Living Wage in April 2016.

The number of paid staff per shop has also hit its highest ever level of 2.15, which appears to have been caused by shop managers having to take on extra paid staff to fill a gap level by another annual reduction in overall volunteer numbers.

In addition, average volunteer hours have fallen slightly and many shop owners share a concern that it is more difficult to get voluntary workers to contribute more of their time.

A 1.9 per cent increase in average rent adds to pressure on the sector. This is the previous year’s increase.

The price of rag has stayed the same as the previous year after three consecutive drops.

Charity shops still delivered a profit margin of 19 per cent this year, comparable to last year, and higher than that of many private sector retailers.

Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA, said: "Once again, the Charity Retail Association is pleased to be supporting the Charity Shops Survey, and we thank Civil Society Media for their thorough work on this topic.

"It is perhaps no surprise that once again the survey has detected a decline in profitability for the sector, but we are also pleased to see that this decline appears to be substantially less than that seen last year."

Shift back to the town centre

This year a higher proportion of shops based in town centre. 68 per cent of shops in 2017 were based in town centres, up from 59 per cent the previous year. 

A few major charities such as Cancer Research UK and the Salvation Army announcing rollouts of out-of-town superstores.

Charity Finance and Fundraising magazine subscribers will receive a copy of the Charity Shops Survey with the October issues. It can be bought online here.

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