Charity shops thrive in economic downturn

WHILE many retail outlets are struggling with the credit crunch, charity shops in a Suffolk town are reporting increases in profits despite the economic downturn.

Sudbury has 10 charitable outlets, with the latest – Danaher Animal Home charity shop – opening in the town’s Borehamgate precinct last week.

Although shop managers say there is a lot of competition in the sector, most of the stores are faring well and some have even managed record years. Deputy manager of Sudbury’s Oxfam shop Gemma Drain said nationally the charity was �1million ahead of its target for this financial year.

She added: “We have had a very good year and that is amazing really in the circumstances. I think it shows the way people are shopping now, and it has become quite fashionable to buy clothing at charity shops.

“Clothing is still the thing we sell most of, and we still get a really good amount of clothes donated so we have never really struggled.

“We have been in the town for more than 20 years, but there is a lot of competition now, so to think that all of the local charity shops are fully stocked shows the generosity of the local people.”

Helen Sherborne, stock and sales manager at the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) shop in North Street, said the Sudbury branch was one of the top 20 highest performing PDSA stores out of more than 200 nationally. Again, women’s clothing is the charity’s bestselling line.

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Ms Sherborne said: “We have had a good year and our area manager is exceptionally pleased with the fact that we have seen an increase in profit.”

Sudbury business leaders say the town has fewer vacant shops than most other UK towns. Recent figures released by the Local Data Company show the national average for the number of vacant shops in a town is about 14%, while in Sudbury, the Chamber of Commerce estimates the figure to be nearer 8%.

They say shop units do not usually remain vacant for long, and in some cases, such as large retail spaces, there is a shortage of available units rather than businesses to fill them.

A range of charities, from big organisations like the British Heart Foundation and Age UK, to smaller independent charities, are represented in Sudbury.