Written in collaboration with Freddy Fossey-Warren

Charity shops, for a long time now, have been the lifeblood of the UK high street. With profits from sales helping to support many amazing causes and the eco-friendly recommerce model keeping many great items from sadly going to waste in landfill, charity shops remain an immensely important part of the UK’s shopping landscape. Drawing in countless customers with the promise of cheap and unique finds, charity shops really are everywhere, and now many are beginning to make the move online.

Over the last few months, more and more charity shops, from large national chains to small hospices, have begun looking to online selling platforms as a way to help plug the large funding gap that has arisen in the wake of the pandemic. According to data from the Charity Retail Association, the main body in the UK which represents the interests of around 80% of all charity shops, the average charity shop in the UK lost over £33,000 in income during lockdown 3 and the subsequent closure of high streets.

Charity Shopping online

On the other hand, Shopiago, has reported a staggering 151% increase in the number of items sold by charities through its eponymous online platform in the six months between February and July of 2021. The majority of these sales have taken place via eBay, providing charities with an avenue to sell to a much wider audience without many fees.

Shopiago helps many charities, including the British Red Cross, Sue Ryder, Barnardo’s, and the British Heart Foundation, in selling shop donations online, and has revealed just how important online sales are becoming for charities. For charity shops, more and more donations are now being listed on online selling platforms such as eBay rather than being sold instore.

This summer saw a peak in internet sales for many charity shops across the country. This coincided with the easing of covid restrictions as many more people were able to take donations into charity shops following their lockdown spring cleaning. According to Shopiago, significantly boosting these online sales have been pet supplies, baby products, and sporting memorabilia, all items amongst the top online sellers for the first half of 2021.

“Charities across the country are increasingly understanding that online can significantly support in-store revenue. In fact, online sales have provided a funding lifeline for many charities during the pandemic, when their high street shops have shut and fundraising events haven’t happened,” said Thom Bryan, head of product at Shopiago.

The Charity Retail Association has, however, pointed out that many shoppers are still not aware of the fact that many of their favourite charity shops can now be supported online as well as in-store. In an effort to help promote this growing focus on online charity shopping, the CRA has created an invaluable ‘find a charity e-shop’ page acting as a directory for dozens of charities many different online storefronts. This page is present on the CRA website and can be found at www.charityretail.org.uk/find-an-e-shop/.

“Many charities are switched on to the benefits of selling donated items online, which has provided vital support during the tough times of the last 18 months. However, shoppers themselves don’t always know where to start when it comes to charity shopping online,” said Jonathan Mail, Head of Public Affairs at the CRA.

“Bricks and mortar shops will always be the lifeblood of the charity retail sector, not only for sales, but for collecting donations and finding the treasures that fetch good prices online. Now people using our ‘find an online shop’ tool can choose whether to stay home and shop or head out to a store in person – either way, supporting your favourite charities is more important than ever.”

As the pandemic continues, charity shops, now more than ever, need our continued support to get through these challenging times. Supporting charity shops through donations or purchases, now available to be made online as well as instore, is an easy way to help these amazing shops to continue in the great work that they do. Of course, the bargains aren’t half bad either.

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