While charity shops are now expected to be a treasure trove of “gems” as they reopen due to people clearing out their homes in lockdown, there are still a number of concerns for both staff and shoppers when its comes to coronavirus.
“The experience for customers will be different to what it was before the coronavirus pandemic,” a Barnado’s spokesperson told Retail Gazette.
As charity and second-hand shops rely on donations, they will face numerous unique challenges as they reopen around the country, including how customers, staff and volunteers will be protected. And like other retailers, they will also have to enforce social distancing and hygiene measures.
But how exactly are they expected to do achieve this with the limited resources they have?
“As part of the reopening we have made significant changes to how we operate, both in our shops but also our collection services, online operations and the ways we accept and collect donations,” British Heart Foundation retail director Allison Swaine-Hughes said.
“From mid-June, we will reopen a small number of BHF shops, ensuring that all necessary precautions are in place such as social distancing measures, protective equipment for staff and volunteers and the safe collection and processing of donated items.
“Once these new ways of working are established, we will continue to reopen our 750 nationwide shops and stores over the following weeks.”
Cancer Research UK told the Retail Gazette it was putting “significant safety measures and new processes” in place for its reopening.
“Our shops will be open for fewer hours each day so that our teams have more time to clean thoroughly,” Cancer Research UK trading director Julie Byard said.
Barnados’ spokesperson said: “Our shops will be following the government’s social distancing guidelines for shops – so the customers shopping experience will be similar to the one they are now used to in grocery stores.”
Barnados added that although donations would still arrive at shops in the same way, it urged people to contact their local store beforehand to ensure the shop was able to take the items.
“When items are donated to a shop colleagues will be wearing PPE – of gloves and aprons – and they will quarantine the goods in a safe and secure storage area for 72 hours,” the charity’s spokesperson said.
“Each item will be date stamped so we know exactly when it came in to the shop.
“After the 72 hours quarantine period is over the goods will be put out on the shop floor.”
Similar to Barnado’s, donations from Cancer Research will also have a 72-hour isolation period before they’re sorted to be sold.
Barnados stated that at this time only paid colleagues have returned to store stating it will only bring back volunteers when it is safe to do so.
Meanwhile, Byard said that while Cancer Research was “always in need of more volunteers, our priority now is to safely reopen our stores”.
Some charity shops are attempting to alleviate the loss of volunteers by partnering with The National Citizen Service as part of its One Million Hours of Doing Good campaign programme to help fill up to 95,000 volunteer roles, since many pensioners are unable to return to stores to volunteer as many are considered “at-risk” for Covid-19. However, it is yet to be clear if this would be a significant amount to help charity shops.
Despite this, Barnado’s said when it reopened 70 of its stores when lockdown for non-essential retail was lifted on June 15, its takings were 18 per cent up compared to the same day of trading last year. However, sales for that whole week in those 70 shops were 30 per cent lower due to the sharp drop in footfall and store operating with reduced opening hours.
Barnado’s also stated there has been a larger amount of donations than normal with clothing, homewares, toys and crockery in popular categories.
On the other hand, the British Heart Foundation said it would be “hugely grateful” for all donations made.
“Our shops are powered by the public’s support, which is why we never take for granted a book, dress or sofa donated to us,” Swaine-Hughes said.