Despite huge amount of donations, the sector is struggling
Charity shops are struggling with plummeting sales despite a surge in donations during lockdown.
Sales for Oxfam are down 32% while the British Heart Foundation is down 20% with Cancer Research experiencing a similar sales drop.
BHF said it lost around £60m in sales during the lockdown period.
Reopening has not been easy for charity shops. Many had to put donated goods through a quarantine period while volunteer numbers have been hit by those shielding or those who just feel uncomfortable about returning to work they deem is non-essential.
Cancer Research UK said that while it enjoyed a 31% surge in donations immediately after the lockdown, “we are now tracking behind last year on donations, and are absolutely happy to take donations, especially autumn and winter clothing”.
Oxfam’s online operation, which includes its own-sourced items such as face masks, is enjoying sales running at around double last year’s levels. Many are brand new and untouched.
Cancer Research is trialling online sales targeting younger buyers over the Depop platform.
The charities are also trying to attract new-style donations through an eBay-led initiative launched during the pandemic called the Big Charity Sell. It lets householders sell their unwanted items on eBay and donate up to 100% of the proceeds to a charity of their choice.
On the high street, extra coronavirus cleaning requirements mean that opening hours at some chains have had to be cut. BHF says its stores are currently opening 10-4pm instead of 9-5pm, with Sunday opening also curtailed, although it hopes to restore original hours soon.
Cancer Research says it plans to open 18 new superstores in retail parks in the next few years.
Despite the fall in sales so far this year, none of the charity shop chains contacted said they were planning to shut stores – with most admitting that recessions are generally good for their business.
“The truth is that in a recession, charity shops generally benefit. People know they can find great value and quality,” said a spokeswoman for Oxfam.
“If you look back through previous recessions, you will see that demand for second-hand and pre-loved items increases. You generally see higher sales levels while the economy is challenged,” said Cancer Research UK.