The veterinary charity PDSA is planning to open 14 more 'pop-up' charity shops by the end of the year to take advantage of empty town centre retail premises.
Charities currently receive an 80 per cent mandatory relief on business rates from central government and another 20 per cent at the discretion of local authorities, making them attractive tenants to landlords that are paying rates on empty premises.
PDSA currently has 13 temporary shops, for which it pays no rent but takes responsibility for repairs. It also has a portfolio of 180 permanent outlets.
"The arrangement is that we will take over the shop in order to prevent the landlord having to pay business rates," said Jeff Brown, retail operations manager at the charity.
"We maintain the shop and we agree that we will vacate it at short notice if a paying tenant comes up.
"It typically saves the landlord between £15,000 and £20,000 a year. We've found that they are turning a profit after the first month, and some remain in place for a surprisingly long time – one since 2009.
"We made £200,000 from those shops last year. They're just as profitable as typical permanent stores."
Brown said the charity could now quickly identify whether premises were suitable and establish temporary shops that looked little different from permanent stores.
"There are a lot of empty premises in town centres," he added. "A lot of charities are looking at this opportunity."