Staff and volunteers

Most charity shops have a paid shop manager, working with a team of volunteers, who help to sort and sell the stock. A few charities have their shops run by volunteers entirely: many other organisations have found that employing a manager ‘pays for itself’, as these people can give more time, skills and attention to the role.

Dependent on retail operation size, there may be area or regional managers and a head of retail. There are also a growing number of specialist roles, such as online selling staff/volunteers and warehouse staff/volunteers.

Rent and bills

Charity shops have to pay rent on their premises, and bills for services like electricity and gas, like any other business.

Charity shops do get some tax concessions, as all shop profits go to fund the work of the charity, which provides public benefit. The key concessions are 0% VAT on the sale of donated goods, and 80% mandatory non-domestic rate relief, which is funded by central Government.

Training

Paid staff and volunteers alike are given training on both retail matters – including health and safety – and the charity itself, so they understand what the organisation is working towards, as well as how to work safely in-store. Guidance is given on sales techniques and display, as well as security issues and health and safety. The Charity Retail Association also provides a wide range of information and guidance to its members.

Acquiring donations

Most charity shops acquire their stock through people coming in with bags of donations. Some shops also do collections from houses, businesses and schools.

If you have a large amount of donations, it is often worth contacting a local shop to see if they can come and collect it from you.

 Unsaleable donations

Only 5% of clothing donated to charity shops is discarded as waste. Textiles that cannot be sold are sold to textile recyclers: these goods will either be recycled as fabric or exported as garments for sale overseas.

Books and records can also be sold on to commercial collectors in this way. Other items, such as glass or wood can also be recycled.

Sorting donations

Donations are processed in the backroom. Bags are emptied onto a sorting table, and gloves worn as the donations are inspected. While some donors take great care to sort and clean their goods before giving them to charity, others are not so stringent, and charity shop workers need to beware of soiled or sharp items.

Cleaning donations

The majority of charity shops have steamers, which are used to clean and freshen up textiles. Some shops also have a washing machine in the backroom, or a volunteer who takes goods home to clean them.

Pricing

The pricing of goods is often left up to the shop manager and their team, though some organisations issue pricing guides. Benchmark guidance can be provided by retail catalogues, or record collector magazines. More valuable antiques can be sold through auctions or online.

 Selling online

Some charities sell items online. This is particularly valuable for collectables, such as records or china, as they can attract a far greater market than they could on the high street. Other online sales outlet users can also sell goods on behalf of their chosen charity.

 Gift Aid

Many charity retail shops and chains claim Gift Aid arising from the sale of donated goods, as well as cash donations. This scheme allows them to claim an extra 25 pence for every £1 a Gift-Aided donation raises. Participants will need to give their contact details to the charity shop when they make a donation. When the goods have been sold, they will be notified how much they have helped to raise for charity.

 Staff and volunteer benefits

Volunteers are not paid a wage, although some do get expenses to cover their travel. Some shops allow their volunteers to purchase goods at a discount, often subject to certain limits.

 The value of charity shops

A charity shops’ primary purpose is to raise money for their parent charities. Alongside that, they bring huge value to their local community, support countless volunteers and boost their local high street. More and more we are finding that our members provide their charity’s core services from charity shops, such as training, support and guidance to name but a few.

This only adds to the hugely positive and enriching experience that charity shop volunteers have when they volunteer in a shop. Over 221,000 of them pass through the doors each year in a variety of roles, often gaining life changing skills, confidence and sometimes even full time work.