Charity shops know they must adapt to survive

Clive Smith says he would not like to arm wrestle athlete Caster Semenya 		Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

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Charity shops are a familiar sight in our high streets, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Behind the door of each one is a treasure trove of bargains, and every purchase comes with a free extra – the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped a worthy cause.

Behind every counter and out in the stock room, are volunteers who give up their time to do their bit for a charity they believe in.

It’s worrying, therefore, that we report today how volunteers fear these little gems are being threatened by the rise of internet sales sites like eBay.

It may indeed be true that as family budgets are stretched and more selling options are available, people who once might have given their unwanted goods to good causes now find it more attractive to make a few pounds selling them online.

It’s perhaps not a fair fight but charity shops, like other high street outlets, now find themselves in direct competition with online secondhand sales, and suffering from the wider decline in footfall in our town centres.

It’s vital that they fight back.

It’s heartening to read in the same report that some charity shops are dabbling with eBay as another way to sell-on the items that they are gifted by the public.

That’s a good sign that volunteers are prepared to adapt to survive, and look at new ways of trading to keep the money coming in.

There are other changes that could be considered.

If people are looking to make a little cash from their unwanted items, there’s a case for saying that charity shops could offer a small amount to take them.

The shop, like any other outlet, could then add a little to the price before selling the goods on.

The profit margins would be smaller, but they may find the frequency and quality of donations increases as a result. In that scenario, everyone’s a winner – the person who donates, the shop which makes a profit and the happy customer who still gets a bargain.

It might work, it might not – but it would be very interesting to see the results.