The Charity Retail Association has criticised Mary Portas’ suggestion that the number of charity shops able to claim rate relief in any one town centre should be restricted. Portas was reported as proposing the cap to last week’s meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Town Centres.
The TV presenter and retail marketing consultant is producing a report, the Future of the High Street, for the government on the future of the high street.
The Charity Retail Association (CRA) countered her proposals by publishing its latest consumer research that suggested that charity shops “enjoy more public support than ever, and are seen as a vital resource on the high street”. The Association has 330 members with about 7,000 shops, representing 80% of charity shops in the country.
Wendy Mitchell, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at the Association, said: “The problems on the high street are nothing to do with charity shops. In fact, charity shops are often occupying premises which would otherwise be empty – so any cap on the number of charity shops is likely to increase the number of empty shop fronts. The High Street Review should focus on the lack of consumer confidence, competition from out of town developments and ways to support small businesses through the downturn – not place the blame unfairly on charity shops.”
According to the CRA’s research, 84% of people said that they shopped in charity shops because of the quality of the goods, and because they could find better bargains. Nearly two thirds of people on lower incomes shop in charity shops, and over 20% of unemployed people and people on the lowest incomes said that they would increase their shopping in charity shops in the next year.
In addition, 52% of the people who said they would increase their buying in charity shops also saw shopping there as an affordable way to support a good cause at a time when they couldn’t afford to give cash donations.
Consequently the Association is writing to the Prime Minister David Cameron today asking him to reject any proposal which would limit the work of charity shops in Ms Portas’ High Street Review.
Gerard Cousins, Retail & Trading Director at the charity Barnardo’s, said: “Charity shops are invaluable to the high street. They occupy otherwise vacant premises, offer a service to the local community in providing a choice of quality, affordable goods and ensure that the public can recycle unwanted items – keeping them out of landfill. I believe the high street should be regenerated, however I do not believe this needs to be at the expense of stores currently renting high street retail units”.
The CRA’s Consumer Research was conducted by JRA Research from 5-12 October 2011 with a representative sample of 1,002 people.
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