Future of the High Street

This week the British Retail Consortium (BRC) released an interesting report entitled ‘Retail 2020. Fewer but Better Jobs’ which examined the possible future of the high street.

The report predicts there will be fewer retail jobs in future making it increasingly difficult for young people to compete for these roles.

Fortunately, the work of Britain’s charity retail sector is providing opportunities for young people to gain work in this increasingly competitive industry. In total, over 218,000 people volunteer in charity stores nationwide which is the largest single group of volunteers in the country. Traditionally, this group have been portrayed as coming from the older generation, and the benefits of volunteering are certainly very real to this community. 61 per cent of charity shop volunteers believe that volunteering has a positive impact on their physical and mental health and over 80 per cent think it improves their self-esteem and confidence.

But just as importantly, training volunteers in charity shops can help equip young people and the long term unemployed with the skills they need to find full time work in the retail sector in this increasingly competitive job market.

80 per cent of charity shop volunteers believe that volunteering has helped to learn new skills and valued this process – something vital for those who wish to build a long term career in retail

But charity shops are not just staffed by volunteers. Our sector provides some of the most rewarding and valued jobs on the high street, something that will become increasingly important if the BRC’s predictions materialise.

70% of charity shop managers are from the local area in which the charity shop is located and with 40% having lived there for more than 20 years.

Just over 40% of shop managers have worked in their charity shop for more than five years, of which almost a third have been involved for more than ten years.

So the charity retail sector is helping people – young and old – adapt to a changing high street. But our stores themselves are also changing the high street.

In this increasingly challenging market charity shops are also beginning to offer more than simply being a shop. Some are using the space to promote their charitable causes further, British Heart Foundation, for example, are offering free training events in their stores while other charities are engaging with their local communities to put on events such as festivals or community cookery classes and tasting evenings in their shop spaces.
This extra social value is demonstrated by research conducted by the independent and well repected think tank Demos on behalf of the CRA. In May this year the CRA will be taking this work further when they publish the Social Value Toolkit to assist members in identifying the social value of their shops and how this can be measured.