Charity shops overwhelmed as general public offloads millions of unwanted possessions during lockdown

Charity shops have “turned to creative solutions” to overcome challenges posed by Covid-19, a review of the not-for-profit sector has revealed.

The report, published by the Charity Retail Association (CRA), comes as charity shops experience a “spike” in donations as the general public clears out unwanted possessions over lockdown.

According to the research, donations are up “considerably” compared to the same period a year ago, creating a significant storage challenge for small shops.

The most recent figures suggest that two in five households will donate unwanted items to charity this year, representing around 22 million pairs of shoes and 67 million clothing items.

Commenting on the figures, Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA, said: “Our experience is that donations are considerably up on this time last year.

“It isn’t anything different from what we were expecting: people first clearing out their wardrobes, and then their cupboards, and then their lofts, and all of this stuff is ending up in charity shops.”

But a lack of storage, staffing issues and low physical sales could mean that hundreds of thousands of donations could go to waste.

However, charity shops are drawing on creative solutions to cope with the challenge, such as using external storage solutions or their own vehicles to temporarily store donations.

“Our members are using vehicles like vans to store things in. People have borrowed premises from elsewhere in the town. People have kept some shops ‘dark’, in terms of opening specifically so they can receive donations. Some have been using external storage companies like Big Yellow,” said Mr Osterly.

“Most of our members are expecting this to settle down during August and September, which is why they are so very keen to ensure they keep these donations rather than have to offload them as rag.”

The study comes as the CRA partners with eBay to help cash-strapped charities set up an e-commerce store to sell items online.

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