Lancashire charity shops welcome back shoppers following surge in donations
Charity shops finally reopened alongside other non-essential retailers on April 12 after months of closure due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Now, charities are issuing guidance for shoppers and those hoping to shift their unwanted items.
They have spent months preparing to reopen, with a surge of donations already coming through the doors since Monday as people prepare to clear out their cupboards and wardrobes after lockdown.
And with an influx of drop-offs expected in the weeks to come throughout the county, Lancashire shops have put measures in place to manage a large number of donations.
Unlike their reopening after the second lockdown in August, the branches are now welcoming new donations without an allocated drop-off time slot, with clothes no longer being quarantined for a 48 hour period.
But, the chain is still asking people to hold on to their items for a little while longer, whilst it works through a large influx of donations at their donation centres and charity shops.
Due to the lockdown, the charity has announced it now hopes to raise its profile online, following a 400 per cent increase in sales year on year.
Barnardo’s Head of Retail Operations David Longmore said: “The lockdowns and subsequent shop closures over the past year have had a significant impact on our ability to raise much-needed funds to support vulnerable children and young people.
"However, our stores exceeded our expectations after each national and local lockdown and we received more donations than the previous year - about 10 per cent more during the summer.
“We are aware that our customers have been holding onto their pre-loved items during the current lockdown in anticipation of us reopening and we shall be delighted to receive them.
"We would ask that our customers bear with us during the first couple of weeks of reopening as our teams will be working diligently to accept all of the donations as quickly as they can.
"Our colleagues and volunteers are looking forward to welcoming both our old and new customers and will have new seasonal offers available. Our teams have been preparing their shops to ensure that they adhere to Covid safe measures.
“We are looking to grow our online presence over the coming years, but we are also committed to protecting our position on the high street as it is even more vital now than ever in terms of ensuring we offer employment and volunteer opportunities, and keep shops open to service our local communities. "
The UK Government no longer advises that donated or returned stock needs to be quarantined or cleaned before being displayed on the shop floor in charity shops.
This follows new advice to the Government from Public Health England based on a review of the growing body of scientific evidence on transmission.
Lesley Fishleigh, Cat's Protection manager, Penwortham, is asking for people to contact them beforehand if they have big donations to drop off following a lockdown clear out.
She said: “We have had a bumper start to the week. It was lovely to be able to welcome customers back to the shop, and for it to be so incredibly busy.
“We have had so many donations already - people have obviously been doing huge clear-outs during the lockdown. We are still able to take in more donations, we only ask that if it is a large donation people call ahead to let us know. We are particularly interested in donations of unwanted Christmas presents, which always sell well.”
"There is a maximum of five customers allowed in the shop at any one time, and a one-way system is in place to aid social distancing. Face-coverings must be worn in store, unless exempt, and there is sanitiser available.”
St Catherine's Hospice, which has 16 shops across Preston, Chorley and South Ribble are using its furniture vans as drop-off points to sort through bags of items, as well as their Preston superstore.
They recently launched their new store 'The Mill', at the hospice on Lostock Lane.
Carole Hoyle, Head of Retail at St Catherine’s Hospice, said: “We’ve been working really hard over the past few weeks in preparation for our charity shops re-opening. We set up our furniture vans in community locations to host donation drop-off points at places such as Leyland Leisure Centre and the hospice car park, which have been really popular.
“We’re delighted all of our shops are now open again, with the exception of our Preston Superstore which is open to accept donations only at this time. We’re using the warehouse space there to sort through the huge number of items to distribute around our shops
"It’s a great team effort from our staff and volunteers, and we’re so grateful for everyone’s amazing support and high-quality donations.
“Not all of our shops are able to accept donations because even though we don’t need to quarantine stock anymore, some of our stores are too small to store the volume of clothing, books, and bric-a-brac we’re receiving. But we’re pleased we also now have our furniture collection service back up and running.”
Carole added: “There have been some really exciting developments within the St Catherine’s retail operation recently. We’ve expanded our online shop and eBay offering during the lockdown, and launched a new Facebook Shop which continued raising funds for our charity whilst our stores have been closed.
“There’s still a lot of work to do sorting through donations but we’re delighted to be back in business and thrilled to welcome back our fantastic customers and volunteers."
With the temporary and permanent closure of many high street retailers, a survey by disability charity Scope showed that 48 per cent of the public were looking forward to visiting charity shops when they reopened.
Ruth Blazye, Executive Director of Retail and Communities at Scope says: “The past year has been an absolute disaster for the high street with many shops disappearing for good. This is devastating for communities who are seeing well known and well-loved shops boarded up.
“Our research shows that people realise the importance charity shops have to play in the future the high street. Not only do they help to create a buzzing environment in their community, but they’re also a treasure trove of hidden gems and bargains, whether you have a limited budget or not."
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