Donations will be quarantined for 72 hours and customers required to use hand sanitiser before browsing the clothes rails and handling the bric-a-brac on the shelves, under plans drawn up by the UK’s charity shops as they prepare to reopen their doors in June
Charities have been badly hit by the lockdown, with some reporting millions of pounds a month lost as a result of shops being closed. Many are keen to reopen, but rules around physical distancing and hygiene mean they may have to operate on reduced hours and put new rules in place for both donors and shoppers.
Barnardos will be among the first to start trading, with plans to reopen 70 of its 700 UK shops in England from 8 June, with staff and volunteers restarting the previous week to begin preparations.
In line with guidance issued by the Charity Retail Association (CRA) it will be putting all new donations – from clothing to books, china and glass – into quarantine for a minimum of 72 hours to reduce the risk of contamination. Donors will be directed to “donation’” points, such as empty shops or warehouses, rather than just leaving goods in doorways and outside shops. All changing rooms will be closed.
Preparations for reopening also include hiring waste companies to deal with the donations that have piled up, unsorted, outside shops in city and town centres since lockdown.
Charities rely heavily on income from their high street and online retail operations to shore up their fundraising operations, but receipts have plummeted since the shops closed. Small regional charities with no national support network have been particularly hard hit.
Cancer Research UK estimates the impact of coronavirus to be a 20-25% drop in its fundraising income – a shortfall of £120m. It is planning a phased reopening of its shops in England from 29 June – subject to government guidance.
Jo Mewett, head of retail for Cancer Research UK said: “We’re planning significant safety measures and putting new processes in place for receiving and handling donations. These include installing hand sanitiser stations, cough guards, contactless payment and face coverings for staff, as well as floor markings inside our larger superstores. Donated items will have a quarantine period before they are sorted to be sold in stores.”
The plan is similar at the British Heart Foundation, which has 750 UK stores as well as an online operation, and has lost around £10m a month as a result of the lockdown.
Oxfam – which is particularly under pressure – is also urging members of the public to hold on to items and donate them when its 650 shops and donation banks are open again. Last year its shops raised £1.4m a month and the organisation has reopened its online secondhand shop this week.
The blueprint from the CRA for its 400 members – which run an estimated 9,000 shops – aims to help them adhere to the physical distancing measures required by the government.
Like most retail outlets, hand sanitiser, perspex screens in front of tills, limits on the number of shoppers, and contactless payment are likely to become standard measures.
Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA, said: “Our members are being, rightly, cautious, but they are an amazingly creative bunch and there has been a lot of very impressive forward planning.”
A national campaign being launched by the CRA and its members on social media from 8 June will encourage consumers to “be mindful” about what they donate, and urge them to contact a store to check it is open before dropping off donations.