Charity shop sales buoyed by recession

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The harsh economic downturn prompted a boost in Christmas business for Derry charity shops this year, as people looked to save money when buying presents.

Following a YouGov survey earlier this month, which predicted a rise in business, the ‘Journal’ spoke to several local charity shops to see how they were affected.

“I’ve definitely noticed it being a busy lead-up to Christmas,” said Teresa McKeever, Manager of the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice shop on Shipquay Street. “People are just watching what they’re buying at the moment. Since September, any gift sets that we put out were going straight off the shelf.

“There’s been a definite increase in business this year, certainly busier than last year, and the first look at figures that we’ve seen now have shown that. People have also been great in terms of coming back in, and bringing donations at the same time as buying, which we are very thankful for.”

Many respondents in the YouGov survey emphasised that charity shops are a great place to find cards, decorations and gift sets, which has provided the core of Christmas business for the shops.

Amanda Burton, the Assistant Shop Manager at the British Heart Foundation shop in Ferryquay Street, said: “We have a gifts range that we buy in, and we also stock a lot of gift sets, which were very popular this year. From the beginning of November onwards it’s been busy, and I would say it has certainly been up on last year. I think it is partly to do with the recession; people just don’t have the money.”

Derry’s newest charity shop, the British Heart Foundation, was also given a good start by the Christmas rush.“We just opened three weeks ago and we’ve been constantly busy,” said volunteer, Niall Cullen.

“More people are saying that they can find more new items, and quality second-hand items, nowadays. The main thing was that it was very noticeable that there were a lot of people coming in to buy Christmas presents leading up to the holidays.”

As the January sales got under way, traditionally a period of very slow business for charity shops, there has also been evidence of a boost in business as a result of the recession.

According to Teresa McKeever, “Thursday was our first day open, and I thought it would have been dead, but I’ve been very surprised with the level of business.”

At the British Red Cross shop this was also evident. Amanda Burton said: “We’ve been quite busy after Christmas as well, which is surprising as usually there would be a lull when the January sales start. It’s definitely a sign of the times.”

Charity shops, however, do feel the pinch of tough economic times as well, and many are calling for donations of unwanted presents after Christmas.

A growing problem for the shops has been a drop in goods donations. “We’re not getting the same amount of stock in at the minute,” said Amanda Burton. “For the most part this is because we have been affected by a rise in websites that actually buy used clothes, and there are also businesses that buy clothing material by weight.”