Leading charity shops have reported strong Christmas sales in contrast to the gloom on the high street.
Oxfam has announced that its 750 shops recorded sales growth of 10 per cent and profit growth of 30 per cent during November and December.
Cancer Research UK shops netted sales income of £15.8m in the same period, 7.3 per cent up on 2003. And the British Red Cross recorded 4.5 per cent income growth in the two months to Christmas compared to last year - an extra £150,000.
Oxfam trading director Chris Coe said: "Early forecasts suggest that high street sales rose by only 1 or 2 per cent year on year this Christmas, so we believe that our results show that we are experiencing a sea-change in consumer behaviour. With sales of fairtrade products in all retailers continuing to show dramatic growth, it is clear that the public is now buying with a conscience."
He said Oxfam was "delighted to be at the forefront of bucking the high street's seemingly downward trend."
The Red Cross' UK retail operations manager, Paul Thompson, said: "For our charity shops chain, it was as though Christmas had come early. In November, we recorded our highest-ever sales for a single week in the history of Red Cross retail."
But Ken Blair, chief executive of retail at the British Heart Foundation, cautioned against assumptions of a general boom for charity shops: "Retailing is tough both for charity shops and the high street. People go through cycles."