Charity Retail in the Post-Covid Era

Guest blog by Trevor Johnson, Director of Income Generation at Havens Hospices

In times of recession, charity retail has done well historically. Low prices are key but so is the ability to adapt to customer need. It is clear that a recession is coming and that creates an opportunity for those in charity retail, but the unique nature of this recession means that we should focus on those opportunities.

It is also time for us to step out of the shadows. In order to reopen we had to plan – not only for social distancing but for how we were going to cope with donations, both volume and infection control. It is no surprise to me that right across the country, thousands of charity shops just did that and quickly put detailed and bespoke plans into place. This show us for the adaptable and professional retailers that we are. We should tell people what we did, and be proud at our flexibility.

We have an ability to adapt – most of us have out of season summer stock ready to go. We need to get this out and shout that we have it. The fashion retailers still have March stock in their shops and their warehouses. We should be clear to our customers what we have and how we are ready to give them what we need.

Fashion retailers will have furloughed buyers and buying teams and stopped ordering due to uncertainty. Again we have the stock, we have the support – how many people have told you that they have had a sort out and are looking to donate to the shops when they are reopen?

Tell your customers what you have and be proud of the stock that fashion retailers won’t. Want a strappy ladies top today? We’ve got them. Summer dresses? Those too. Want something for the kids to do at home whilst there is still no school? We have lots of inexpensive toys, books and games. We can even usually help with some cheap baking stuff that the kids can use without you worrying about them ruining your best cookware.

All of this is what charity retail can bring. Bored at home due to lockdown and still furloughed and looking for something to do? How about volunteering? We can help you with your bored teenagers too as they are welcome to volunteer. At Havens Hospices we have a great scheme called Young Ambassadors which gives young people the opportunity to gain hands-on experience right across the charity.

And of course there is the positive impact we have on the environment. Most of us have been struck by the images of nature getting better without us polluting it. Through our 23 charity shops at Havens Hospices, we save 1,000 tons a year from landfill by helping preloved things find a new home.

Like many charity retailers I come from a “normal” retail background and often charity retail has been looked at as the poor relation. How many of us have heard “not another charity shop” when we start the opening process only for us to become the busiest shop on the shopping parade once we’re open.

This is our time to shine. We are highly responsive to customer needs, enabling people to buy things that aren’t available elsewhere at an amazing price. We help make our planet a better place and we enhance our communities through volunteering and the relationships we build with our regulars. All whilst being commercial and ensuring that we support our parent charities financially to the tune of millions a year. This is our opportunity and we should be proud.

I’m a charity retailer and proud of that. We hope to see you soon and I think we can surprise you with what we can do.