No deal Brexit threat to UK charity shops

The Charity Retail Association – the UK’s only trade body for charity shops – is calling on the government to protect the sector’s ability to trade if a deal is not reached with the European Union before the 29 March.

Our members are concerned about the potentially crippling costs – resulting from the holding significant quantities of unsellable stock – in the event of a “no deal” Brexit.

Specifically, these concerns result from the government’s plan to replace the CE marking on products with a UK-only equivalent.  Such a change would affect charity shops in two main ways:

  1. More than 90 per cent of the goods charity shops sell are donated by members of the public.  Donors often acquire these items several months or years before they donate them to charity, and so it is likely that for some time charity shops will continue to receive items bearing a CE marking, even after a new UK marking is introduced.
  2. Some charity retailers sell a small amount of bought in goods to help ensure stock certainty in their stores.  Again, there may be a backlog of these items which cannot be sold, or significant costs associated with changing the labelling on these items.

To overcome these problems, the Charity Retail Association has written to the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, to demand that he protect the sector by:

  • Ensuring that in the event of a “no deal” Brexit, any items in stock in charity shops on March 29 are not required to change their CE labels to bespoke UK labels
  • Guaranteeing that second hand goods can continue to be sold in perpetuity by charity shops, even if they only have a CE label
  • Ensuring that, for new goods that charity shops sell the “period of grace” promised by the government, which will allow retailers and manufacturers to make provisions for the change, lasts as long as possible.

Robin Osterley, Charity Retail Association Chief Executive, said:“If our members are unable to sell their donated stock in the event of a “no deal” Brexit, and changes to the system of CE marking, it will be a catastrophe for this uniquely British institution.

“The impact on the environment will also be extremely harmful.  Currently charity shops keep 327,000 tonnes of textiles out of landfill be reusing or recycling them instead.  If we can no longer do this, they will inevitably end up below ground.

“I am confident the government does not want this, and by complying with our three requests they can protect the UK’s network of charity shops.”

Our letter to Greg Clarke, Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (pdf format)