MHA | What does the future hold for charity shops?

What does the future hold for charity shops?

Nicola Mason · Posted on: January 23rd 2023 · read

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In a recent survey by the Charity Retail Association, charity shop sales are up by 10% compared to the same period last year. This is partly down to the cost of living and people wanting their money to stretch further but is also due to people wanting to live more sustainably. 

What has caused the increase in charity shop sales?

Social media platforms such as Instagram and Tiktok have also increased charity shop popularity with people posting great finds, styling outfits and demonstrating the benefits of obtaining unique items of clothing.   

There are also increasing examples of collaboration between mainstream high street brands and charity shops as corporate responsibility moves higher up the agenda for companies. 

A recent example of this is staff and customers at TK Maxx can donate clothes, accessories and homewares via in-store collection points to sell in Cancer Research UK shops.

There has also been development in online charity shopping with more expensive items being identified and sold on eBay or the charities' own sites. Whilst this is fantastic in raising funds, the physical shops are also important as they provide a range of functions:

  • The shops can provide a connection with the local charity and provide other information and opportunities to sign up for other fundraising or community events
  • They provide a strong connection to the local community through the number of volunteers helping in the shops
  • Help in encouraging people back to the high street when donating or shopping

How can charity shops prevent fraud?

All of these circumstances are positive for the outlook for charity shops and the fundraising opportunities they provide.   However, charity shops can cause difficulties in the potential for fraud. 

In order to avoid this,  Preventing Charity Fraud suggests the following basic controls:

  • Staff and volunteer training
  • A well-publicised process for reporting concerns about crime as well as whistleblowing and grievance processes
  • Use of CCTV, alarms and staff monitoring
  • A procedure for staff and volunteer purchases
  • Regular audits to ensure policies and procedures are followed
  • Documented processes for pricing items
  • Regular bank reconciliations.

Where charities have a number of shops, they can also monitor trends over time and benchmark against other shops to identify anomalies.

If a charity has engaged with online shopping, they should ensure that there is the tracking of which items have been posted and reconciliation of income received.  Access to online accounts should also be limited.

Finally, charity shops also allow the use of the charity Retail Gift Aid scheme to increase the level of funds raised.

As a source of ethical retail, charity shops are poised to contribute hugely to the retail sector.  Managed correctly, charity shops can make an important contribution to charities in terms of revenue, profile and engagement. 

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