Preston charity shops see surge of donations after lockdown
Lockdown has given people the opportunity to clear the unloved and unwanted out of their wardrobes and cupboards, but charity shops across the borough are struggling with an influx of donations.
According to YouGov, the Covid-19 pandemic made many charity shoppers and volunteers wary of returning, as clothes need to be quarantined before making it to the shop floor.
The lockdown period gave people the time to combat the much needed spring clean, with research showing that 55% of people have gathered bags of books, clothes and other items to be donated to local charity stores.
Some charity shops, like Preston's Bernado's, Blackpool Road, are beginning to struggle with the amount of donations that have been coming through their doors in recent weeks.
A Barnardo’s spokesperson said: “Over the past few weeks we have reopened our charity shops in Preston and the surrounding areas. Since our doors have opened, we have seen a big increase in the number of donations that people have kindly brought in to us.
“Our shops have varying levels of storage space and we currently have safety measures in place to manage donations including bags being quarantined for 72 hours in a secure storage area. This is changing on Monday 10 August to 48 hours, so shops will be able to take more.
“We do not want to turn items away as our shops raise vital funds for Barnardo’s work with disadvantaged children, young people and families. But as we are currently only able to accept a certain amount of donations each day, we are asking people to ring ahead to check if they are able to take any more that day, or whether they will need to be brought in at a later date.
“We are always extremely grateful for the generosity of our local communities.”
This flood of preowned clothes, books and furniture has presented itself as a logistical struggle for many charities, who are having to quarantine goods for up to 72 hours in order to make them safe from Covid-19.
The challenges facing charity shops continue, as more than a third of customers told You Gov that they would feel uncomfortable purchasing from one as they reopen (36%). The figure includes 12% who say they’d feel very uncomfortable.
Carole Hoyle, head of retail at St Catherine’s Hospice, said: “We have been incredibly well supported in recent months by people donating items for sale in our shops and we are so grateful for their wonderful support.
“We’ve been working hard to adapt to the new restrictions which are essential for the safety of our customers and colleagues as we open our shops on a phased basis.
“We are incredibly grateful for all donations. To protect people, donations are ‘quarantined’ for 48 hours before they’re prepared for sale. Some of our charity shops are too small to accommodate this new measure so we’re utilising our Donation Centre building in Lostock Hall and our large Preston Superstore to store and sort through donations. People can drop off items there as well as our Chorley furniture shop, so there are options for people in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble.
“We’re doing our best to offer as many safe and easy ways for people to donate as possible. For example, we’ve re-opened two of our most popular shops in Ashton – the general charity shop and the book shop – and because we can’t accept donations there, we’re setting up one of our furniture vans outside the shops once a week. We’re also collecting donations of good quality furniture.”
Chief executive Stephen Greenhalgh added: “We’re aware that some charities are sadly having to turn donations away but we are doing everything we can to accept our supporters’ generous donations that raise much-needed funds for St Catherine’s. Our services are needed more than ever as we keep approximately 250 people out of hospital every day.
“There’s been a lot of planning involved to re-open our shops but we’re managing really well and we’re absolutely delighted with the fantastic support and feedback we’re receiving. Our volunteers have been truly amazing adjusting to new ways of operating and working extremely hard.
“It’s been wonderful to welcome donors and customers back after such a long time and to be able to express our deep gratitude to all of them.”
As part of the new measures, anything donated will be quarantined, with clothing being steamed, while books, games and bric-a-brac need will be wiped down before hitting the shelves.
The same procedure now applies to items returned by customers, to ensure they are safe from contamination.
At the The International Aid Trust charity shops, Retail Manager Nina Haydon is encouraging those with large donations to call their local branch and book in a time slot to drop off their donations.
Their stores, in Chorley, Preston and Lostock Hall are working with reduced hours to allow the limited number of volunteers to sort through donations safely before customers arrive.
Retail Manager Nina Haydon said: "As a small charity, we are so grateful for all the donations but we have had implement reduced hours to work through them. We ask that if people have large donations, they should book them in and we can then work with them.
"Working round customers in the shop with donations has proven difficult because in a small space, it can be hard to keep them separate from other customers who need to socially distance.
"It is now just a matter of adapting the way we work under the circumstances. With the tips being closed it has also been a problem because people do often not realise that we have to pay to take unwanted items away. This means that we virtually use the money from their donations to dispose of the other goods we can't use. I always say, if it's something you'd be happy to buy yourself then its good stock to donate."
With most of their volunteers still living in isolation due to old age and the magnitude of donations in recent weeks, the International Aid Chorley branch have now transformed their shop into a clearance branch to help tackle the amount of customers dropping off goods more efficiently.