Robin’s blog: Some reflections

I thought I would use this opportunity to pen some reflections from a CRA point of view. Clearly the pandemic is not over, but to paraphrase Churchill we may well have reached the beginning of the end rather than the end of the beginning – not that I’m fond of quoting Churchill of course! It does seem clear that the effects of the pandemic on the charity retail sector have now dissipated and, although we may well be left with a shortage of volunteers, and possibly a small reduction in the number of shops in the total estate, the worst does seem to be past from the point of view of the sector.

CRA has spent much of the last year as you know delving into government pronouncements in order to attempt to understand how to interpret them in the best but safest possible light for the sector. This has been by no means an easy task, and I’m grateful for all the positive feedback that our members have sent us to indicate that we did at least a passable job. With that level of intervention and advice no longer appearing to be necessary – fingers crossed – we now turn to thoughts of the future, and I wanted to share with you a couple of thoughts. These are incorporated in our strategic plan, to be launched next week. They are clearly medium-term rather than short-term considerations, and there aren’t any easy fixes for any of us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t position ourselves in a way that makes swift progress.

Sustainability and the green agenda
I’ve been saying for some time now that our current and hopefully future success will be predicated on two types of shoppers – those who need to shop in charity shops, and those who want to shop in charity shops. The former group – in many ways unfortunately – have grown considerably as a result of the economic pressures brought about by the pandemic. However the number of people wanting to shop in charity shops because of, amongst other reasons, the positive environmental benefits, has been growing for at least 10 years and it’s vitally important that we continue to take advantage of this zeitgeist and the backlash to fast fashion which is becoming more and more obvious. In order to do this we all need to lead from the front and show our environmental credentials in the best possible light; CRA is committed to helping our members do this in the most cost effective and beneficial way and it’s our belief that in the medium term revenue and income will be dependent to a considerable extent on our ability to convince a sometimes sceptical public of our environmental credentials.

Equality, diversity and inclusion
A number of our members have been extremely forward-thinking in this area and we are trying to disseminate best practice wherever we can rather than adopting a finger-wagging approach – however it’s clear that some of our members are, shall we say, a little behind with this agenda and once again we are trying our hardest to offer advice guidance and to lead from the front.

You will hear much more from us about these things in the coming months and years but it’s important to realise that none of this replaces any of our existing services or lobbying efforts – we remain committed to being the best possible trade association and providing the best possible support for our members, and I’m really looking forward to working with you on this basis in the future. The regularity of the Charity Retail Leaders Update emails may well become a little more erratic over the summer but please do not in any way think that we have reduced our commitment to engagement with you – it’s just that over the summer fewer significant things tend to happen; although I probably said the same thing last year and I’ve been proved not just wrong but horribly wrong! We will remain flexible and responsive and obviously if you need us for anything at all you only have to ask.

With best wishes, Robin