What is a charity shop?
Charity shops are retail outlets selling mainly donated goods to raise funds for their parent charities. Charity shops can only be set up by charities.

When was the first charity shop opened?
In the 19th century the Salvation Army ran second hand clothing shops to provide the urban poor with cheap clothing. At the outbreak of World War Two, other charities such as the British Red Cross also started to operate shops as a way to raise money for the war effort and relieve hardship.

Modern charity shops as we understand them – retail units selling overwhelmingly donated goods to raise as much cash as possible for the parent charity – did not appear until after World War Two. The first of these was opened by Oxfam in 1947 and is still in operation today. Oxfam were swamped by donations from the public following its appeal for aid to alleviate the post-war situation in Greece. The success of this appeal yielded so many donations that it was decided to set up a shop in Oxford to sell a portion of these and to use the profits to further fund aid in Greece.

How many charity shops are there?
Our current estimate is around 11,200 shops in the UK: 84% are in England; 8% are in Scotland; 5% are in Wales; 3% are in Northern Ireland. There are more than 400 shops in the Republic of Ireland. See the Irish Charity Shops Association.

Who works in charity shops?
There are around 26,000 paid staff and 233,000 volunteers nationwide.

Why do people shop in charity shops?
– To support the activities of the parent charity.
– Environmental and ethical benefits of the reuse of goods
– The range of unique goods available
– Retro and vintage fashion seekers
– The prices

Where do the goods in charity shops come from?
More than 90% of charity shop sales are from donations. Some shops sell ‘bought-in’ goods – new goods which are sold for profit. The average charity shop sells around 6% new goods.

What tax concessions do charity shops get?
Charity shops benefit from tax concessions under UK tax law because all the profits go to fund the work of the charity, which provides public benefit. Charity shops receive exemption from corporation tax on profits, a zero VAT rating on donated goods sales and 80% mandatory non-domestic rate relief on property taxes. This is funded by central Government.

What happens to the money that is raised?
Money that has been raised goes to the parent charity, to further their charitable work.