We are all too well aware of the dramatic effect that the pandemic and lockdown has had on the high street and we cannot rule out the threat of further disruption to trade.
The UK’s 11,000 charity shops have suffered from reduced footfall over the past 18 months, impacting sales as well as donations. At the same time, some innovative charities have been embracing new ways to provide services and engage with the public, using video conferencing, smartphone apps and websites in more creative ways.
One such charity that has seen the potential of digital is Age UK South Lakeland. With their administration partner Charitek CIC, they have built an e-commerce platform that enables any charity or CIC to sell online – recreating a positive charity shopping experience on the web.
“BuyCharity.com gives participating organisations the ability to tap into the charity shopping ‘feel good factor’ in the online shopping environment,” says Hugh Tomlinson, CEO of Age UK South Lakeland and Managing Director of Charitek CIC.
In the Charity Retail Association’s 2018 report on online selling, 55% of charities were selling online. This figure will almost certainly have increased. Yet this means a huge percentage are still not benefiting from online sales. It is not due to limited options. From eBay and Amazon to Facebook and charities’ own websites, there is plenty of choice. Hugh Tomlinson believes that what is missing is the “charity” feel of the platforms. He explains.
“Previously charity online shopping was either using the traditional trading platforms and competing with sole traders and companies where the “charity shopping” vibe was totally lost, or using an individual charity online shop often mixed and confused with the charities’ main activities.
“BuyCharity.com is not designed to replace charity shops or their online stores, but to complement them. Those charities with a high street presence will be able to market products to a different audience – which means finding new buyers, and potentially selling niche items such as brands and collectibles at a higher price.
The platform manages Gift Aid and VAT, and the ability to accept donations. It has an automatic upload function to eBay, so you can upload an item once and give it a presence in two online shop windows.
Phil Whiteley is Partnership Development Manager at Age UK South Lakeland.
“BuyCharity.com will resonate with members of the public who want to support charitable activities or have a more sustainable approach to what they buy. It is a one-stop site where they can browse products from fully accredited organisations that are all looking to generate much-needed funds to support the causes that they are passionate about. BuyCharity.com is not a competitive platform, so the more partners there are and the more items there are on offer, the more shoppers will visit the site – so everyone wins.”
BuyCharity.com has passed its beta-testing phase, and a range of charities have signed up and are selling. A wide range of items is added every day – from fashion and jewellery to electronics and antiques – alongside hundreds of registered buyers. You can get involved by contacting Phil Whiteley on email firstname.lastname@example.org.