Donation doldrums

October 06, 2010, 11:48 PM GMT+0

Low donation levels, and therefore of variety of stock, are presenting revenue problems for charity shops despite their attractive low prices, a YouGov SixthSense report shows.

  • 73% of the British public say they buy from charity shops, compared to 27% who don’t.
  • The most popular purchases are books, bought by 24% of the population from a charity shop within the past six months, clothes (18%), household goods (5%), collectables (5%) and DVDs (5%).
  • In an attempt to boost revenue, some charity shops are stocking new items, especially focusing on Christmas cards and gifts.
  • Oxfam, for example, sells Fairtrade products in its shops and the British Heart Foundation sources household goods for sale in its Furniture & Electrical stores.
  • Just 10% of the population claim never to donate anything to charity shops
  • But 22% say they have not donated in the past six months.

Low donations

Based on data produced by Charity Finance in the Charity Shops Review, income generated by charity shops fell by 2% in 2009 to £526 million.

And while overall levels of donations to charity shops are high, straightened times may decrease their frequency. That over one in five haven’t donated in the past six months may suggest that people are increasingly trying to generate cash for unwanted items, turning to channels such as eBay, small ads, car boot sales and pawnbrokers.

Indeed, Oxfam’s head, Barbara Stocking, told the BBC, ‘Sales always do well in a recession - and that's what's happened again.’ She continued, ‘The challenge is always to get donations in. People aren't buying new things, so don't they give us their second-hand ones.’

In an attempt to increase variety and revenue, several leading charity shops have established specialist shops to cover the second-hand book and entertainment product markets; Oxfam has over 100 specialist bookshops and claims to be the second biggest second hand book retailed in the UK. Oxfam has also tried to encourage donations by creating the Marks & Spencer and Oxfam Clothes Exchange, which offers a £5 M&S voucher in return for each donation of second hand clothing.

With VAT rates set to rise to 20% in January 2011, charity shops may appear an increasingly attractive option for those hoping tighten their purse strings.

Read more on the SixthSense Charity report