Charity shops thriving, but more stock is needed

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New research from the Charity Retail Association has found that the national love affair with charity shops is thriving in Britain, with income at an all time high of nearly £1 billion, and £30 million more spent in British charity shops in the last year.

This represents growth of 3.6 per cent year on year, as charity shops buck the high street trend.

However, charity shops across the country are struggling to meet increased demand, and joined together today to ask for more donations of unwanted clothing and items from members of the public. Over three quarters of people in the South East have unwanted clothing in their wardrobes that they don’t use.

57 per cent of people in the South East of England have bought items from charity shops in the past 12 months, with one in five people in the region shopping in charity shops more frequently than two years ago.

Independent consultants JRA Research found the recession playing a part in this, as nearly a million more people from hard-pressed middle class groups in the UK are shopping in charity shops since June last year.

But although price and affordability were important factors in reaching new customers, it was also found that people valued the good quality and range of items on offer in charity shops.

The research also showed mothers of young children depending on charity shops for basic necessities; such as children’s clothing and toys. Three quarters (73 per cent) of mothers who had shopped in charity shops in the past 12 months had bought items for their children, and 55 per cent bought children’s clothes. Half of those surveyed who were affected by child benefit cuts are shopping in charity shops more frequently than two years ago.

But while charity shops are becoming more and more popular on the high street, they are struggling to get the donations they need through the door. One in six people admit they have started selling their unwanted clothes to make money instead of donating them, with nearly a third of mothers (31 per cent) saying this. 15 per cent of people who didn’t donate said it was because they can’t afford to buy new clothing so are keeping things for longer.

But the Charity Retail Association says there are still millions of people with unwanted clothing and goods just sitting at home that could be of huge help to them.

And the survey backs this up with three quarter of people saying they have clothing in their wardrobe they no longer use, while the top three reasons people don’t donate is because they haven’t got round to it, haven’t had time or simply haven’t thought about it.

Women were more likely to be holding out to see if clothing would fit them again in the future, with 10 per cent of women hoping their clothing would be re-usable, compared with only five per cent of men.

The Charity Retail Association is now calling on the public to make a donation of unused items to their local charity shop to help, and to pledge to continue donating this coming year. Members of the Association, including Oxfam, Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, British Red Cross and Barnardo’s are joining forces to support the campaign, along with hundreds of local hospices and smaller charities.

Chief executive Warren Alexande said: ‘Charity shops are a uniquely British institution and our new research shows the scale of the national love affair with them, but they can’t survive without donations from the public.

“The unused and unwanted items in people’s homes are worth millions of pounds to charities, and we hope this campaign will act as a reminder to people in the South East that making a donation of unused clothing or goods to their local charity shop is a great way to help charity when you don’t have cash to give.”