How British Heart Foundation’s shops managed the impact of Covid-19

05/10/2021 10:06

Guest blog by Shopiago

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is the second biggest charity retailer on eBay worldwide. The charity has made £24.5m from selling donations on eBay, £17m of which has been achieved in the last four years. It’s a significant proportion of the BHF’s fundraising, which funds life saving research into conditions like heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia – diseases that still kill one in four people in the UK.

Getting the best out of eBay

The BHF has always focussed its online sales on eBay, where it has had a presence since 2006. Charities can reach 182m shoppers all over the world, but the website also comes with limitations for large charity retailers. For example, there is no built in Gift Aid functionality, and eBay provides one login per account so multi-level users are unsupported.

This was a challenge the BHF was already facing in early 2020, but then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, fundamentally changing the retail landscape and depriving charities of essential fundraising when they needed it most.

Dark stores for lockdown click and collect

For the BHF’s e-commerce team the challenge was two-fold: firstly, how to manage click and collect at its 190 Home stores around the UK, while stores were closed. Secondly, what to do with its corporate donations – typically large furniture items including garden furniture, and a large donation of high-quality mattresses. These donations would normally have been sent to nearby stores to be listed on eBay and collected in person, as it was too expensive to send all these items to the BHF’s e-commerce hub in Leeds to be listed.

The BHF had been running an effective collect-in-store operation for items bought online for some time. However, the system was often a long-winded process because the software that had been used to date could only be used in the Leeds operation, not by shops and stores or, crucially, by people working from home.

The charity wanted to create a network of stores that catered exclusively for online retail, offering a click and collect service to online customers during the lockdown period. For corporate donations, the BHF wanted to be able to list items at any third-party warehouse where the furniture was being stored.

Trialling Shopiago

The BHF contacted the team at Shopiago, online software that helps charities operate e-commerce more efficiently, enabling them to increase revenue and realise the potential of online selling. Shopiago manages the whole sales process, from donation to fulfilment and delivery, and automates Gift Aid to reduce the admin burden. Being cloud based, the system can be accessed by any member of staff or volunteer, whether in the warehouse, in a shop or while working from home.

Josh Bentham, head of charity partnerships at Shopiago takes up the story: “Speed was of the essence when it came to helping the BHF stores to keep running at a time when it felt like the world had stopped turning. We worked closely with the BHF team to set the project up, establish lines of communication and ways of working.  The success of the project was dependent on collaboration.”

The development team at Shopiago set the individual stores up with their own log in so they could list items directly on eBay without having to route stock through the Leeds hub. Listings just had to be approved by a supervisor at the hub – a quicker task than managing the entire listing.

Shopiago created training videos to help the staff and volunteers learn how to create listings quickly and easily. In addition, stores could keep track of their stock listings, and sales would be added to that store’s revenue. When an eBay customer collected an item from a store, the store team could simply mark it as collected on Shopiago. As a result of these changes, a quick, effective click and collect operation had been established.

When it came to the challenge of corporate donations, Shopiago worked with the BHF on a new process that would enable third party warehouses to list their own stock for sale via the charity. Rather than relying on emails and phone calls, the new process on Shopiago meant that the sale could be tracked at every step.


  • Driving record sales of over £100,000
  • BHF eBay shop impressions up 53% and page views up 45%

Through partnering with Shopiago, the BHF could continue trading successfully during lockdown, and recorded online sales of £100,000 in a six-month period.  The new listing process is around three times faster and has been popular with staff and volunteers in store and at the Leeds hub.

Between September and November 2020, page impressions on the BHF eBay shop were up 53%, page views were up 45% and the number of items sold increased by 12%[1].

“To be able to continue trading during lockdown via eBay, with this new click and collect service was a huge advantage for us – especially as people were frequently turning to home improvements during that time. It was an opportunity to continue raising funds for the charity’s work while our high-street shops were closed,” said Richard Pallier, head of online retail at BHF. “Shopiago understood what we needed, and the team used their wealth of knowledge and experience to implement new processes quickly and effectively, which had a positive impact on our operations from day one. Its functionality means we can expand our online ambitions into the future with the ability to list from multiple locations across the UK. This provides an avenue to help us recover from the pandemic and continue to help improve and save the lives of those 7.6 million people in the UK living with heart and circulatory diseases.”

[1] Compared to June – August 2020, before the new Shopiago process was implemented.