Impact of recession on Oxfam’s charity shops

May 8 2009 - Mark Phillips

Oxfam have released a fascinating report on the impact of the recession on their charity shops. Having the largest number of stores (714) of any charity in the UK, it presents a pretty comprehensive picture of what is happening nationwide.

The highlights are:

  • Donations of goods are down by 12%.
  • Projected over 2009, this could mean 1.2 million fewer donations.
  • The number of shoppers remains level with that seen in 2008.
  • Sales are up by 5%.
  • Donations of homewares (crockery, glass, china) are down by 7%.
  • Donations of furniture are down by 13%.
  • Donations of clothing would be down by 8% had it not been for the Marks & Spencer Clothes Exchange programme.
  • The M&S exchange programme generated an extra 900,000 donations in the first year of operation.
  • Total shops profit was £20 million.
  • Oxfam’s online shop generated almost £1 million in sales last year.
  • Worst hit areas for falling donations include:
  • North Yorkshire
  • North London
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Devon
  • Cornwall

Areas that are doing the best include:

  • West Midlands
  • Tyneside
  • Teeside
  • South Wales

The recession is impacting on the level of donations in a variety of ways.  As families reduce the amount they spend on new things, they have less to donate to charity shops. This has been made worse by the reduction in people moving home, which has traditionally been a time when people have a clear out and buy new curtains and furniture.

But Oxfam have taken an innovative approach to beating the recession. They have introduced some fantastic ideas, which seem to be working very well.

  • Rather than stick to the standard charity shop approach of “you give it, we sell it” they are moving items to specialist stores and now have an expanding chain of high fashion boutiques along with book and music shops.
  • They now have their own recycling programme called Wastesaver which recycles items they simply can’t sell.
  • Shops are open longer. This worked out at an additional 1,000 trading hours a week. That’s the equivalent of opening up 20 new shops.
  • Sales from Oxfam’s online shop contributed almost £1 million in over the last year.
  • The M&S exchange programme generated £1.8 million in it’s first year.

But Oxfam is not alone. We are seeing other examples of innovation elsewhere.

Sue Ryder Care has experimented with a “pay what you choose programme” and the British Heart Foundation has set up their ownvoucher exchange programme with WH Smiths.

Information like this is great to have. A big thanks to Oxfam who are great for sharing it so freely.