Cancer Research UK closes its chain of greetings card shops

Cancer Research UK is closing its 29 Wishes card shops after an eight-week review of their finances found they were failing to match the performance of its core charity shops and were unlikely to do so in future.

Wishes: outlets will be turned into traditional charity shops
Wishes: outlets will be turned into traditional charity shops

The stores will be converted into traditional charity shops selling donated stock. Staff and volunteers will be transferred to the converted shops, where CRUK will continue selling its range of Wishes cards.

The move comes one year after the charity spent nearly £1m refitting and stocking 16 new Wishes shops (Third Sector Online, 11 May 2007). The expansion doubled the size of the chain and was expected to help to deliver "a significant part of the retail department's profit".

But the internal review concluded that the chain was not matching the return on investment achieved by CRUK's core charity shops and was unlikely to do so because of the improved performance of the core shops and changes in the greetings card market.

"Cards are now less of a 'destination purchase' and instead shoppers are buying cards on impulse from other outlets, such as supermarkets," said Simon Ledsham, trading director at CRUK.

Ledsham declined to say how many of the stores had been successful and said the recent expansion had been necessary to assess the chain's potential in the market place. He added that CRUK stood by the venture.

"Four years ago, people bought charity cards only at Christmas," he said. "We have created a market for charity cards all year round. It is a great example of how CRUK has been prepared to innovate to create fundraising models that others can use."

The charity will start to convert Wishes stores within weeks, at a total cost of about £90,000. In towns where it already has charity shops, it will consider alternatives such as selling donated books or music. Most will be converted by the end of July, though several will continue to operate until September.

CRUK said that suitable alternative employment was available for all Wishes shop staff, and that it was consulting staff and volunteers about the plans.

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