Decline in the number of charity shops worsens

The net fall in the number of high street charity shops has almost doubled over the last year, according to latest figures.

Research carried out by the Local Data Company for accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) into High Street retail trends found that 271 charity shops closed in 2017, but just 202 opened.

This net decline of 69 is almost double the net fall of 37 in the number of charity shops, when the same research was carried out in 2016.

The figures, which only include shop chains of five or more, also show that more charity shops than pubs and convenience stores closed in 2017.

Last year 212 pubs closed with a net fall of 66, and 175 convenience stores shut their doors leading to a net decline of 59.

The only retail sector to see more closures and a greater net decline in units than charity shops is fashion and clothing. During 2017 this sector saw 713 closures and a net fall of 314 stores.

Last year the Charity Retail Association’s 2017 Charity Shops survey reported that the number of charity shops had failed to rise for the first time in 14 years.

PwC retail strategy director Kien Tan says that the decline in the number of charity shops reflects wider trends affecting High Street retailers across a number of sectors, in particular the increase in online shopping.

In total the number of new high street stores opening fell from 4,534 to 4,083 between 2017 and 2016.

“Charities are not immune to the same trends that affect consumer behavior across all retail and hospitality sectors,” said Tan.

“As consumers do more shipping online there are fewer people on the high street in general. There has been a reduction in footfall and charities are evolving in the same way.

“If you shop on Ebay many charities have a big presence there, particularly for items that are more collectable. They are better off putting those items online to target collectors.”

The research shows that the retail sectors that are growing are those that have a strong focus on providing consumers with an “experience”, says Tan.

During 2017 beauty product shops saw 107 openings but just 77 closures (net gain 30) and 153 coffee shops opened, compared to 128 closures (net gain 25).

In addition, the book shops also saw a net gain of 20, with 37 opening and 17 closures.

Tan said: “If you look at the ones that are growing they are mostly experience shops. The reason why bookshops are growing in spite of more books being bought online is because they offer an experience that can’t be replicated online.”

“There has to be a reason for people to go onto the high street so the retailers that are being most successful are those that are creating something that can’t be done online. It’s not just a transactional experience. So if you want to buy the latest Jamie Oliver cookbook that’s something you can get on Amazon. But if you want a recommendation of what book to read next that is something that you can only get from a human being.”

Tan added that while the net fall in the number of charity shops is high, the large number of openings “suggests that there’s a renewal. They are moving to a different part of town, possibly nicer locations”.

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