Charity stores ‘on the up’ as shoppers embrace compassionate consumerism

Regular customer Lucy Mayne and shop manager Jolanda Caputi at Scope in Newmarket

From left, customer Lucy Mayne and Scope Newmarket shop manager Jolanda Caputi - Credit: Jolanda Caputi

The East of England’s attitude to charity shops appears to be changing for the better in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, a survey suggests.

The first days of trading has brought an influx of shoppers — and even queues — as charity stores across the region reopen.

Philippa Hindes, manager of disability charity Scope's store in Norwich

Philippa Hindes, who manages disability charity Scope's store in Norwich, says shoppers have been queueing up to get in - Credit: Philippa Hindes

Disability charity Scope commissioned  market research company Opinium to compile a Charity Shops State of the Nation survey. It sampled the opinions of 2001 UK adults between March 30 and April 1, 2021.

As Scope stores across the region enjoyed a welcome boost as shoppers returned in force, the survey showed a marked increase in enthusiasm for charity stores.

It found that one in eight people across the East of England (12%) were more likely to visit a charity store compared to before the pandemic. Three in five (60%) felt the stores will play a vital role in high streets after the lockdown — with more than a quarter (24%) admitting to a big shift in clothing tastes — with many more donning leggins and pyjamas.

The study also revealed that half (50%) of British adults were looking forward to visiting charity shops after lockdown. 

East of England shoppers put the new-found desire to visit the stores down to their way of contributing to society (58%). a desire to support charities which have seen their income hit by the pandemic (58%), a perception that they represented good value (45%) and viewing them as a vital part of their communities (54%).

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Philippa Hindes, who heads up the Scope shop in Norwich, said there had been queues every day outside the city store since reopening on Monday, April 12, as shoppers looked to bag a bargain while supporting the charity. Lockdown gave store managers a chance to give the premises a revamp, which had attracted some favourable feedback, she added.

“Our customers have told us they’re just so happy that we’re open and that they missed us,” she said. “It’s great to see that people are still adhering to the rules of social distancing, even though we’re very busy.”

Jolanda Caputi, shop manager at the Scope charity shop in Newmarket, said staff and volunteers had been “very excited” at the reopening, with “exceptional” sales as customers returned. The store is now looking for more volunteers to help out — and more donated items.

“Our wonderful customers have been continually telling us how happy they are to see us all back. Sales have been exceptional this week and we’ve been receiving lots of wonderful donations since our doors opened on Monday. Some customers have even called us to see what we need. We really appreciate this but there is no need to call us, as we aim to sell all the kind donations we receive.”

Ruth Blazye, executive director of retail and communities at Scope, said they past year had been “an absolute disaster” for the high street with many shops disappearing for good.

“This is devastating for communities who are seeing well known and well loved shops boarded up,” she said. “Our research shows that people realise the importance charity shop, like Scope, have to play in the future the high street. Not only do they help to create a buzzing environment in their community, they’re a treasure trove of hidden gems and bargains, whether you have a limited budget or not.”