Updated: Apr 18
Charity shops are a mainstay of the British high street, but the sector has been rocked by the lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic. As we look towards the lifting of restrictions and a future in which charity shops can once again trade freely and safely, let’s take a moment to consider why they deserve our support.
1. Charity Shops Raise Vital Funds
The income generated by the UK’s diverse array of charity shops helps fund innumerable good causes, including scientific and medical research, services for vulnerable groups, animal care, and international aid. As a society, we all benefit from the funds raised by charity shops.
2. Charity Shops Benefit Local Communities
Charity shops are often located in the hearts of our towns and neighbourhoods, and are well placed to provide information about local events and services. They often attract regular customers and promote social connections, adding a wealth of social value to local communities.
3. Charity Shops Benefit the Environment
Charity shops promote re-use and recycling, and provide an ethical system for the disposal of unwanted clothing and goods. This inevitably reduces landfill and fly-tipping, whilst simultaneously reducing fast fashion as people turn away from throw-away culture towards more sustainable patterns of consumption.
According to the Charity Retail Association, charity shops are able to re-use or recycle more than 90% of donated clothing and books, and 85% of electrical items. By donating unwanted goods to charity shops, we help create a cleaner, greener world.
4. Charity Shops are Good for the High Street
Over recent years, UK high streets have witnessed falling footfall as a consequence of online shopping and the inevitable impact of austerity. At the same time, retailers have been hit by increasing rent and business rates. Many businesses have been forced to close, and vacant units are an increasingly common sight.
Landlords who struggle to let properties at market rates sometimes decide that it is better to let at reduced rates to a charity than have the property stand empty. Charity shops also receive tax concessions, and consequently often flourish where other businesses have been forced to close.
According to a report by cross-party think tank DEMOS, charity shops support high street rejuvenation by filling properties that would otherwise stand vacant. Charity shops, it seems, are good for the high street.
5. Charity Shops Provide Positive and Affordable Shopping Experiences
Charity shops provide opportunities for affordable shopping, which is vitally important during the pandemic when increasing numbers of people are pushed into poverty. A recent BHF survey found that one in three UK adults feel that charity shops are more important following Covid-19, with BHF Retail Director Allison Swaines-Hughes explaining that
This pandemic has been devastating for so many of us, and the reopening of charity shops is going to be vital for millions as we look to recover. Charity shops provide high quality items at affordable prices.
The provision of high quality items at affordable prices attracts a wide demographic of shopper, including fashion-conscious bargain hunters as well as people in financial need. Recent articles extolling the benefits of charity shops have appeared in Vogue and Marie Claire, and the DEMOS report recognises “the success of the sector in conveying a positive lifestyle image of using charity shops among young people, and the success of individual stores in providing shoppers with a positive customer experience.”
6. Charity Shops Provide Employment and Voluntary Opportunities
In the face of rising unemployment, charity shops provide opportunities for stable employment, with paid staff managing day-to-day retail operations. Some charity shops also facilitate work experience placements, helping people to gain valuable skills and improve chances of future employment.
Charity shops attract a broad range of volunteers. Young people seeking to improve employability prospects can learn from retired people who have skills to impart, and people with support needs can volunteer alongside people who are seeking to give back to their community. Volunteering builds skills and confidence, facilitates social connections, and enables people to contribute positively to society.
Here at Clothing Collective we help people who are experiencing poverty and homelessness, whilst simultaneously supporting our partner charity shops.
We do this by raising money for clothing vouchers, which are then distributed to people in need by our partner foodbanks, night shelters, and support services. People can then exchange these vouchers for clothes in our partner charity shops.
Our partner charity shops then turn the Clothing Collective vouchers back into vital funds for their work.
You can support Clothing Collective by donating here.
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