According to the latest report by Demos, over half of the British public associate charity shops with the high street’s demise, with half those surveyed saying that a “ a healthy high street should contain fewer charity shops”. To find out if there is any truth in these convictions, the British online marketplace OnBuy.com decided to walk the high streets of London to see whether they are really being overtaken by charity shops.
Using tools such as Google maps and Google street view, On Buy quickly noticed that charity shops can be found in both affluent and less privileged neighbourhoods, as well as some of the most popular shopping destinations in the capital. But they didn’t observe any abnormally large numbers which would justify the widespread belief that charity shops are to blame for the high street’s demise.
In most places, charity shops were found to account for 5-10% of all high street shops excluding banks, coffee shops, eateries, hairdressers, beauty salons and other service businesses. There were exceptions such as Chipping Barnet where charity shops account for almost 20% of all high street shops. Despite that, the numbers don’t confirm the claim that the high street is being taken over by charity shops.
Trying to answer the question why so many Brits feel that the high street should contain fewer charity shops, OnBuy decided to compare their numbers with the traditional high street fashion brands. This time, the numbers tilted heavily in favour of charity shops. In places such as Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, they were found to account more than 80% of all apparel shops on the high street. However, this is above all a result of the traditional high street favourites virtually disappearing as OnBuy could count only two apparel stores on the high street.
OnBuy’s findings provide some explanation for the widespread perception that there is nothing other than charityshops on the high street. These are more or less only filling the gap that is left by popular brands abandoning the high street. Over the following months, New Look alone is planning to close 60 out of 593 stores around the country.
Allison Swaine-Hughes, Retail Operations Director from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) explained that charity shops are a very important part of the high street, adding that they are only occupying space that could otherwise be empty. Swaine-Hughes also emphasised that through charity shops, the BHF is raising vital funds for its research on improving treatment of heart disease.
The BHF’s Retail Operations Director also told OnBuy that charity shops are much more than just shops; they are community hubs providing health information as well as volunteering jobs, enabling the local community to develop new skills as well as an opportunity to enhance CVs.
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