The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

Posted in Ask the Experts Charity Retail & Auctions

How can charity retailers bring in more custom?


What can charity retailers do to bring more customers through the door?


Wendy Mitchell, head of policy and public affairs, Charity Retail Association

Over half of the UK population shops in charity shops, from a wide range of social backgrounds. Successful charity shops have many of the same characteristics as any successful commercial retailer – high-quality, attractive products at the right price, with great customer service.

As well as encouraging existing customers to buy more, there might be other groups that could be targeted. Research commissioned by the Charity Retail Association last year showed that 47 per cent of those aged between 16 and 24 visited charity shops – still quite high, but below average. And women are more likely to buy than men. The research also showed up a cohort of supporters who make donations to charity shops but don’t purchase from them. Charities may wish to consider what they can do to encourage these supporters to buy.

With the trends in shopping online and in out-of-town centres, charity shops might also want work with other retailers on joint promotions to attract footfall onto the high street. This could be good for generating donations as well – a number one concern for many charity shops.


Mike Taylor, retail director, British Heart Foundation

The single biggest factor that can increase footfall into shops above the normal daily volume is attractive and relevant windows.

We try to ensure our clothing and accessory windows are colour-coordinated and as relevant to the prevailing weather as possible. With the sort of weather we have had in the last year, that has meant themes often changing several times within a week as stock sells through.

We try to follow a similar principle on books and entertainment. At this time of year, holiday fiction, summer sports manuals and children's books would get more focus.

Charity shops offer exceptional value, and communicating that clearly on price tickets and other window point of sale material is key. You can never assume in categories that are seeing price deflation in the market, like books and music, that this is always seen and appreciated by the consumer.


David Brodala, head of retail, South Bucks Hospice

Charity shops have upped their game over the past few years and many now match the best on the high street for visual impact. But getting enough quality goods to sell can be much harder, as lately donors have been keeping their quality items much longer, or are selling items themselves on eBay. This can leave shops looking empty, and so charities have to think up new ways to obtain stock, such as more door-to-door collections and selling bought-in items.

Charity shops have to make sure they never stop innovating and that they keep high standards. You can never stop going forward, otherwise you end up out of business. South Bucks Hospice has adopted an innovative approach by situating two of our shops at recycling centres, making it much easier for customers to donate as they drop off their unwanted household items.


Paul Thompson, head of retail, British Red Cross

Consumers simply won’t put up with cluttered second-hand shops filled with dowdy hand-me-downs. To keep our customers coming back, we ensure that our Red Cross shops are vibrant and inviting spaces stacked full of quality items.

We offer a wide range of clothing from on-trend high-street staples to one-off designer brands – all at affordable prices. We are selective about what sits on our shelves, keeping our ear to the ground and promoting key lines that we know will suit our customer base.

We are at the heart of local communities and like to make our customers feel valued, recently introducing a loyalty card that rewards those that shop with us regularly. Customers are given discount vouchers according to the number of points gained in store.

We also let our customers know how important they are to the continued work of the British Red Cross. Without their custom, we simply wouldn’t be able to help as many people in crisis, both in the UK and overseas.


Dan Corns, shops and commercial director, St Richard's Hospice

Over the last ten years, St Richard’s Hospice has committed itself to improving the standard of our shops, and as a result we’ve seen a dramatic increase in both customer flow and quality of donations.

While our shop managers are given clear guidance from head office, as they have the best local customer knowledge they are allowed to make certain decisions on how best to serve that community. Many have chosen to hold promotional weeks in-store, advertising in advance to customers that they will be specifically targeting a particular product, and they are able to pull resources from the rest of the shops to be able to meet the demand. These promotional activities have proved to be very popular with our customers – increasing our footfall by 35 per cent.

We also host cheese and wine events for the public, and we invite all our volunteers and our best/long-serving customers. At the latest event we had 110 people turn up, and took a week’s takings in one evening.

This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 32, August 2013

1 Comment on How can charity retailers bring in more custom?

Alex Castle (Positive Procurememt) said at 06:34 on 03 September 2015

Social enterprises could be the key - the public coming into the shops and indeed walking past have shopping lists for normal everyday products but lack a retailer or supermarket ensuring items offered add social value. Real synergy to providing a shop window for social enterprise with consumer relevance eg. Divine and Harry Specters - chocolate, Cafe Direct - coffee, Belu - bottle water, The Soap Co - soaps and lotions...the list goes on! Extra revenue, extra footfall, extra social value.

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