Resilient. The one word that sticks out when reading the latest Charity Shops Survey. A word that resonates with people of the UK no matter what is going on in the world.

Charity retail is a fundamental aspect of any British high street, providing towns and cities with a sense of community and pride. However, in today’s economic climate and changes in the retail landscape, charity shops are proving to be tough in adversity, as Robin Osterly, CEO at Charity Retail Association explains;

“the charity retail sector has shown itself to be extremely resilient in dealing with the natural changes of circumstances and cycles of retailing”
Brexit is still providing a lot of uncertainty amongst the UK as a whole, not just within the charity retail sector and it is likely to remain unclear as we head in to 2018. It will be interesting to see the progress of the sector in 12 months’ time, as we gain greater understanding of the impact Brexit has on charities.

Interestingly there was no mention of GDPR which goes live in May 2018, this will heavily affect the sector as charities can only lawfully contact donors and supporters for fundraising, campaigning and marketing along with managing volunteers.

Increased Revenue

Income looks to have increased by 2.7% since 2016 but so too have costs at almost double the rate, resulting in a fall in overall profits. On a more positive note, profits haven’t been as austere as last year, highlighting that there may be room for improvement throughout 2018.

Charities are continuing to evolve and adapt to the retail landscape, embracing technology to help increase revenue and expand online as store openings have leveled off for the first time in almost 15 years.

Embracing Multi-Channel

No longer reserved for high street retailers, increased number of charities are branching out online either via their own ecommerce site or through third party sites, such as, eBay and Amazon. Online sales have seen increases of over 30% as they take advantage of alternative routes to market and capture sales from all demographics.

Specialist and Super Stores

Specialist and super stores are a fantastic way to increase revenue for charity retailers, especially larger out of town centres that are easily accessible to the busier lifestyle. Cancer Research UK have been extremely successful in opening 12 superstores with everything costing no more than a fiver; proving popular amongst avid shoppers and supporters, the stores have seen substantially more profits than their high street stores.

Gift Aid

Charities all want to increase revenue for their causes and Gift Aid is a wonderful way to capture additional profit. Income on Gift Aid items has increased since last year despite uncertainty around the updates to HMRC regulation. Integrating Gift Aid with retail systems is crucial to success, reducing admin and ensuring all regulations are adhered to.

Volunteers Matter

All charities rely on volunteers, they are what make charities tick and give them that sense of community that other high street stores often fail to provide. Data highlighted in the survey shows that charities are finding it difficult to take on volunteers or ask volunteers to donate more of their time, resulting in this being top of the list of greatest concerns. It could also have a major impact on the fact that paid staff levels have increased along with wages.

Future of Charity Retail

Overall the report does have some positivity for the industry, it’s not all doom and gloom; however, it will be interesting to see how the sector progresses over the next 12 months and the results of next year’s survey when there will hopefully be more clarity around Brexit and GDPR coming in to place.
So, what does the future hold for the sector in these uncertain times? Will charities still prove to be hardy or will they triumph in the face of adversity?
For more information and to purchase Charity Shops Survey 2017 you can visit Civil Society here:


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