Charity shop income falls but outperforms commercial high street, study reveals

Charity shop income fell sharply in the final quarter of 2020, but performed “relatively well” compared to the rest of the high street, a major study has revealed.

The research, published in association with the Charity Retail Association (CRA), is among the first to explore the impact of stop-start lockdown measures on the not-for-profit sector.

According to the Charity Retail Sales Tracker, commercial high street stores saw sales fall by some 27.7 per cent in October 2020, compared to the same month a year before, while like-for-like charity shop sales dipped by just 19 per cent.

But the not-for-profit sector saw a greater fall in income in December, when new lockdown restrictions were put into place. Total like-for-like sales dropped by 26.2 per cent, compared to a 31.4 per cent fall among commercial high street stores.

No data was collected for November as almost all charity shops were closed.

Commenting on the figures, Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA, said: “It certainly has been a frustrating period for charity retailers, who have largely been unable to capitalise upon what is undoubtedly a massive demand for their services.

“That said, we remain very optimistic for the future, and anticipate that trading will quickly return to pre-Covid levels when we are eventually allowed to reopen.”

With many more months of trading turbulence to come, the sector is increasingly looking at ways to expand its services online, the report notes. For example, 85 per cent of charity retailers are looking to expand current online sales operations, while eight per cent are launching online services for the first time.

Mr Osterley added: “Although many of them have used this opportunity to significantly increase and improve their online capability and offerings, this cannot compensate for £28 million per month that UK charities lose whenever shops are shut.”

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Posted in Blog, Charities, Covid-19.