Charity retailers not as badly affected by the pandemic as the rest of the high street, figures indicate

Like-for-like sales in charity shops were down by almost 20 per cent in October, latest data shows

Charity retailers were not as badly hit as the rest of the high street in the final quarter of last year, new figures indicate. 

Statistics from the accountancy firm BDO, produced with the Charity Retail Association, found that like-for-like sales in charity shops were down by 19.2 per cent in October compared with the same period in 2019, partly due to additional lockdown measures being put in place toward the end of the month. 

But in-store commercial high street sales were down by 27.7 per cent during the same period, BDO’s update said. 

The Charity Retail Sales Tracker encompasses sales changes reported by a group of charity retailers representing about 4,000 stores. 

In December, the figures showed that like-for-like sales among charity retailers were down 26.2 per cent, compared with a 31.4 per cent fall across the rest of the high street. 

No figures were collected in November because the majority of charity shops were unable to operate due to government restrictions. 

The CRA estimated in November that the second lockdown, which took place in England that month, would cost charity retailers at least £28m in lost shop revenue.

BDO said that despite an encouraging start, lockdown restrictions took their toll on the performance of charity retailers over the quarter. 

It described the outlook for 2021 as “very uncertain”. 

But additional research conducted by BDO found that 85 per cent of charity retailers were responding by attempting to expand their online sales operations and eight per cent were working to introduce online sales for the first time. 

Fiona Condron, charity retail partner at BDO, said: “We were beginning to see encouraging signs at the beginning of quarter four, but new lockdown restrictions brought any hopes of a sustained recovery to an abrupt halt. 

“Unsurprisingly, the outlook for 2021 remains very unclear, although a faster than expected vaccine roll-out does provide some hope that restrictions may be eased in the not too distant future.

“However, it’s clear that the pandemic is forcing many charities to rethink their retail strategies. Many are now looking carefully at how ecommerce operations might complement their high street presence to help drive up income.”

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