Setting up and running a charity shop is a complex undertaking, and one which should not be entered into lightly: they are a good method of raising awareness and funds for a charity, but not a simple one. You will find that you are faced with the same issues as someone running a small business: security, health and safety, trading law, in addition to problems specific to the sector, such as sourcing stock and your volunteer workforce. An overview follows below.

First steps

  1. Register as a charity with the Charity Commission. Only registered charities can set up charity shops.
  2. Familiarise yourself with the statutory obligations that come with being a retailer, charity, employer and occupier of property. Find employment law guidance on the ACAS website.
  3. Familiarise yourself with the tax side of running a charity shop. Charity shops are exempted from corporation tax, benefit from zero rated VAT on the sale of donated goods, and 80% mandatory non-domestic business rates relief. His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website has guidance on these issues.
  4. Approach your local council, to arrange rates relief.
  5. Create a budget for the shop, with likely income (from sales) and expenditure (from rent, wages, repairs, bills, insurance, etc.). Remember that 60-80% of a shop’s income will go to running costs, such as rent and wages.
  6. Raise your start-up capital. You will need at least £5,000 to pay the rental deposit, as well as for the shop-fit, essential building repairs and staff recruitment.

Setting up a charity shop

  1. Choose an area to set up your shop. You will need to be in a mixed income area with good footfall and nearby parking.
  2. Find a property. The shop will need to have a good sized backroom for storage and stock preparation, as well as a suitable public area. In order to comply with Health & Safety legislation and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) (, the shop will need to be safe, well lit, and accessible to those with disabilities.
  3. Fit the shop. The public area will need shelves, railings and a counter with a till, while the backroom will need storage and sorting facilities. Security equipment is highly recommended.
  4. Hire a shop manager, with retail experience. They will be responsible for all the shop’s activities, including stock, volunteers and cash handling, as well as report writing on sales etc.
  5. Find volunteers. You will need a minimum of two people working in the shop at all times, for safety, security, and stock processing. The average charity shop has 20 volunteers.
  6. Train your workforce, so as they know about your charity’s aims, retail law, product safety, stock preparation and spotting valuable goods, as well as issues like health & safety and security.

Running a charity shop

  1. Encourage donations from your community, whether via social media, signage or neighbourhood forums. There are legal obligations involved in house-to-house collections.
  2. Sort, clean and price your stock. Unsold textiles (i.e. too old or damaged) may be bought by a textile recycler – we recommend a TRUST-accredited recycler – who will recycle or export them. For more on textile reprocessing, visit the Textile Recycling Association.
  3. Make sure the shop is a safe and secure place to be, and to work in. Paperwork – such as risk assessments – must be completed to prove this. Display the correct posters and notices, including: employer’s liability insurance certificate, Health & Safety law poster, employer’s Health & Safety policy statement, fire emergency instructions and the emergency aid notice. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents website has more information.
  4. Make sure the shop is welcoming to disabled customers and volunteers, so as to comply with the DDA regulations. This involves practical things, like having a ramp over steps, as well as training staff on how best they can help.
  5. Make sure the shop complies with consumer law, and sells safe goods of satisfactory quality. Visit Trading Standards for further guidance. Our members can view extensive ‘sale of goods’ guidance in the members’ area of this website.
  6. Apply for a music licence if desired.

Further information

We recommend the following sources of information:

  • The Charity Commission provides information on the legal aspects of charity trading, including operating under a trading subsidiary in CC35 – Charities and Trading.
  • The Charity Shops Survey is an annual survey of the charity retail sector published by Civil Society.

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