YMCA defends move into former Burtons store in Sudbury town centre

Opening of Sudbury's latest charity shop, the YMCA in the former Burtons shop.

Opening of Sudbury's latest charity shop, the YMCA in the former Burtons shop. - Credit: Gregg Brown

A new charity shop has opened in Sudbury in the prime town centre retail unit previously occupied by menswear chain Burtons.

YMCA England, the biggest and oldest charity working with young people worldwide, started trading yesterday at the Market Hill premises.

It is the charity’s fourth retail outlet in Suffolk and chief executive, Rowena Kerslake, said the shops helped to fund vital work and raise the profile of the YMCA.

When the move was initially announced, it prompted a backlash from some traders in Sudbury, where around 5% of businesses are charity shops although most are in ‘secondary’ locations.

In addition, charities only have to pay around 20% of the usual business rates.

While business and council leaders in the town accept charity shops have their place, some are worried there are too many in Sudbury.

But according to YMCA acting area manager, Hannah Beaven, the charity has taken out a temporary lease on the premises.

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She said: “There have been some negative comments about the size of the unit because people assume we are renting it but we are only temporary tenants and this is much better than the building being empty.

“When such a large unit becomes vacant it would create quite a big gap on the high street.

“We pay rates, heat the building, decorate and keep it in use until a paying tenant comes along.

“From our point of view, we are lucky enough to be able to test the water in a prime location.”

Across the UK, the YMCA provides around 10,000 bed spaces and is one of the largest providers of safe supported accommodation for young people.

Mrs Kerslake said: “In addition in Suffolk, we offer supported housing including emergency beds, health and wellbeing support, youth groups, training opportunities and nursery care across the county for people aged from 0 to 25.

“I can’t reiterate enough how much our charity shops support that work.”

The Sudbury shop is looking for stock, which can be dropped off during opening hours or at the rear of the shop via Gaol Lane.