From time to time, Charity shops come in for criticism in certain quarters. As the voice of the sector, we take an active role in addressing negative perceptions.

We find views of charity shops overall worth to the UK High Street are more positive when people use them to volunteer, shop, or donate. If you’re not sure, why not go to our find a shop page to find your local charity shop to try for yourself.

Research shows that people notice more charity shops as other shops close, so can confuse cause and effect. Charity shops are a vital part of the High Street and we will continue to champion them.

The following is a common list of questions, of which the answers should give accurate context for the media, high street shoppers, or the public at large.

  1. There are too many charity shops

Charity shops make up only four per cent of total retail units in the UK, compared to the national vacancy rate of around ten per cent (we recognise that this is a national picture and might not be reflected in an individual’s experience in town centres).

Removal of charity shops from high streets would simply create more shop vacancies in the majority of situations.

  1. Charity shops bring down the High Street

We don’t see any evidence that charity shops bring down a shopping area; in contrast they make high streets more attractive to investors by filling units and drawing footfall.

The Kent coastal town of Margate, once considered by some as down-at-heel and a victim of the last recession, is an example of how charity shops can form a key part of a community’s revival. The area is now dubbed “Shoreditch-On-Sea” – a nod to East London’s trendy district and the diversification of the charity retail offer in Margate in recent years, reflecting wider trends across the sector.

The latest Demos Report on the Charity Retail sector, Shopping For Good, notes:

“As the sector has become more professional and more specialised, charity shops are contributing to a more vibrant and eclectic retail mix on high streets.”

Additionally, it adds: “Research by Civil Society Magazine has shown there has been an increase in the proportion of specialist shops, which include those selling books, furniture or electrical items.

“This trend towards greater specialisation can enable charity shops to become destination stores, which can add value to the high streets in which they are located.”

The Demos report also mentions that younger people are more likely to view shopping at charity shops as cost effective, environmentally friendly, and trendy.

  1. Charity shops are full of new goods

To be recognised as a charity shop by law, a store must sell “wholly or mainly donated goods”, so in essence more than half of the products sold must be donated stock.

In the 2016/17 financial year, just 6.9 per cent of charity retail income came from new goods, and these figures will have included seasonal products such as Christmas cards.

  1. Charity shops have an unfair advantage due to fewer overheads plus getting reduced business rates.

Like any other business, charity shops negotiate appropriate rents with landlords. A charity shop does not get discounted utilities (such as gas, electric) in line with other retail outlets, but a discount on the business rates they pay due to the charitable nature of the shop.

ALL profits received from a charity shop go directly to the parent charity in order for them to carry out their charitable function, not shareholders or private owners.

  1. Shop volunteers are used as cheap labour

The 2017 Demos report research shows that 25 per cent of volunteers were in the process of looking for paid work – highlighting the role of charity shops as a springboard to other activities. Additionally, 75 per cent believed that volunteering had helped to learn new skills and valued this.

Volunteering in charity shops gives positive psychological and life benefits for individuals. The Demos report shows 95 per cent of people agree that volunteering has provided an opportunity to socialise and meet new people. Additionally, volunteers people are more confident and improved self-esteem (73 per cent), have improved physical and/or mental health (73 per cent), plus improved employment prospects (66 per cent).

Charity shops continue to play a huge role in an ever-changing UK High Street. Our members’ shops provide vital funds for their parent charity, ensuring that huge benefits are brought to a wide section of the community.