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Charity shops could be for shoppers

22 May 2013

What defines a charity shop? Discounted, second-hand goods nobody needs sold by volunteers with bad attitudes on increasingly empty high streets at low business rates? Or, a simple way for people to contribute to society and get something back? Sounds like a choice between a rock and a hard place. Who is ready to change the game and find a better way?

Charity shop does not have to mean ‘junk shop’.  For many national charities, their shop is their brand on the high street. There’s a reputation at stake. As Mary Portas has said, “They are there day in, day out.  Consumers pass them every day – shops are the most visible piece of brand awareness that there is for a charity.”

Here are 10 questions for CEOs of charities with retail outlets on our high streets.

  1. What is ‘success’ for your charity shops? Income, Service or Reputation?
  2. You’re a shop on the high street, but what are people buying? Can you be more than Poundland with a social purpose?
  3. If you made consumers and customer service your priority, what would change?
  4. How about breaking the mould and setting up with a commercial partner on the High Street, even it means paying full business rates?
  5. What about specialising in giving people what they want instead of whatever you happen to collect?
  6. You’re a national chain store with a charitable purpose – what could you do if you could do anything?
  7. Are you online? If not, why not?
  8. Who are you aiming at? One age or social group? Or all?
  9. Is your shop a multi-purpose access point to your work?  Can people join and donate, as well as buy goods?
  10. What would you need to do to make your shop a ‘destination’ rather than an ‘obligation’?