Charity shops fear they will suffer a deluge of donations when they open their doors again on June 15th.
With thousands of furloughed workers having the time to de-clutter their unwanted possessions shops in virtually every town in England could be faced with a massive pile of donations.
Britain’s 11,200 charity shops bring in almost £300 million a year in much needed funds, but under coronavirus rules, all new donations will have to be quarantined for 72 hours before they can be put on sale.
Robin Osterley, chief executive of the Charity Retail Association, said: “We’re not just anticipating a normal three months’ worth of donations but also the extra stuff that people may have picked out to donate during their clean-ups.”
Oxfam, one of the country’s biggest charity shop chains, is asking customers to stagger their donations to avoid items being left outside.
A spokesman said: “We welcome that many people are taking the opportunity to de-clutter during lockdown and are asking people to hold on to those items and donate them when shops and donation banks are open again.”
All of the charities are phasing their shop re-openings to ensure their anti-viral safety measures are working properly.
British Heart Foundation has the biggest branch network with 750 stores and spokeswoman Allison Swaine-Hughes said: “From mid-June, we will reopen a small number of BHF shops to establish new safe ways of working with others to follow.”
Barnardo’s is the second largest chain with 710 shops. They plan to open 70 at first and are advising donors to ring their local shop first to make sure they are able to take items.
Third largest, Oxfam, has made no re-opening plans at the moment, saying: “Our priority remains the health and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and customers.”
The shops are staffed by a volunteer army of more than 233,000, but the Charity Retail Association fears a shortage of volunteers when shops re-open.
Robin Osterley said: “Some may still be in isolation because of the Covid-19 crisis, while others may simply have fears of being out and about.”
Senior consultant for the association, Vicki Burnett, said: “A large proportion of charity shop volunteers will be over 70 and therefore in the vulnerable category. It is inevitable that some volunteers may never return to the roles they had before lockdown.
“But lots of staff and volunteers are also desperate to get back to their shops, having missed the camaraderie and sense of purpose it provides, as well as to return to some form of normality.”
Extras hygiene measures
She added that all stores will be introducing extra hygiene measures to reassure customers.
She said: “Goods that come in will be isolated for 72 hours before being sorted and the shops already have great hygiene processes when it comes to sorting goods – items are washed, steamed or cleaned and this will only increase in the current situation.”