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Charity shops responding to challenge of reopening

Charity shops responding to challenge of reopening
22nd June 2020 Ian Streets

The rush to reopen retail after lockdown has prompted Guardian journalist Sam Wollaston to look behind the scenes at a sector which has been harder hit than most – Britain’s charity shops.
Sam selected the Scope shop in Walthamstow for his research on the basis that it’s the one he generally uses.
His report provides great insight into the mountains of work facing charity shop staff all over the country, and why after months of clearing clutter the donations flowing in are so desperately needed.
His piece reports that the shop in Walthamstow has lost roughly £33,000 during lockdown. In normal times all the charity’s 207 shops generate between £1.7m and £1.9m a month and in April alone the charity’s income was 85 per cent down on the same period last year.
Sam adds that chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £750m bailout fund for charities didn’t come close to replacing lost income, not just because of shops being closed but also because of the cancellation of other means of fundraising, including the London Marathon, the Great North Run and various street-funding activities.
With the increasing likelihood that people will favour NHS charities over other causes, the article highlights a study by Pro Bono Economics which found that one in 10 charities faces bankruptcy by the end of the year as they struggle with a £10bn shortfall caused by a perfect storm of massive income reduction and rocketing demand for their services.
Sam quotes Scope’s area manager, Lara Woolston, as she explains the new process for receiving donations – they go into heavy-duty bin bags, which are labelled with the date, tied up with giant rubber bands, taken to a room above the store and left for 72 hours to minimise any risk of infection. Safety of staff, volunteers and customers is Scope’s priority.
The staff say that quarantine for donated clothes, books, CDs, sunglasses etc is going to be stricter and better organised than it is for arrivals at UK airports. They have also done a lot of work on the shop floor, which has been cleared of clutter and items such as rummage boxes and toys that children would play with, limiting the opportunities for people to touch things.
Fitting rooms are no longer available – if something doesn’t fit customers have to bring it back. There’s a one-way system, with arrows on the floor, plus “sneeze screens” at the tills. Customers are offered hand sanitiser along with a mask and gloves on entering.
Despite the restrictions Sam reports that the appetite to use charity shop is “alive and well”. To read his piece in full please visit


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