Are charity shops in danger of decline? - Thorne Widgery

Charity shop numbers have fallen for the first time in more than a decade, a new study has revealed.

The finding forms part of Charity Finance Magazine’s 27th Charity Shop Survey.

While the total number of charity shops in the UK fell by just 12 over the year, to 6,482 across 71 major charities, the significance lies in the fact that it is the first observable decline in 15 years.

Coincidentally, the figures follow recent reports that show that the majority of local authorities in the UK refuse to give charity shops full business rates relief and are charging “extortionate” sums for waste disposal.

The Charity Retail Association (CRA), which published the study, said the current state of the business rates relief system is both confusing and expensive, and may be contributing to a decline in charity shop success.

“We believe it would be simpler, fairer and more cost-effective to move to a mandatory system of 100 per cent rate relief for all charity shops, recognising their wide social benefits and enabling them to do even more for good causes across the country,” it said.

Returning to the survey, the magazine also found that overall volunteer numbers dropped over the same period, while at the same time staffing costs increased by 5.1 per cent, placing an even greater strain on charity finances.

Despite this, charity shops are still a major source of revenue for the third sector, with annual revenue increasing 2.7 per cent in the year to March 2018, generating more than £870 million in income.

The full survey will be published in this month’s Charity Finance and Fundraising magazine.