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Unwanted Christmas gifts most likely to be donated to charity shops, survey shows

Melanie May | 4 January 2024 | News

Two people exchange a gift. By Bob Dmyt on Pixabay

Unwanted Christmas gifts are most likely to be donated to charity, according to research by KPMG based on a poll of 3,000 people from across the UK at the beginning of December. At the same time an ActionAid survey suggests that many outfits bought for the festive season are also now unwanted.

In KPMG’s survey, 21% of people said they would give unwanted gifts to charity, making this the most popular option. Regionally, it was most popular in the North West of England (at 25%).

Trying to sell the item on a second-hand website was the second most popular option (17%), highest regionally in the South West of England (at 21%).


Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.

The polling also found that people with unwanted gifts and no receipt are least likely to try and exchange them, with a similar number of people (both 4%) saying they would not ask the sender for the receipt.

Linda Ellett, UK Head of Consumer, Retail and Leisure for KPMG, said:

“Consumers most commonly saying they will donate unwanted Christmas gifts to charity shows the festive spirit is alive and well in the UK.  Hopefully this will bring a boost to charities, at a time when funding is challenged by the cost of living crisis, yet their services are in greater demand than ever.


“Consumers also tell us they will turn to second-hand websites in a bid to ensure that they receive value for the item, instead of trying to get a refund for it without a receipt, while a similar amount said they would avoid it being wasted by looking to re-gift the item during the course of the year.


“These findings support KPMG research that demonstrates the growth of the circular economy – with one in three consumers saying they will buy more pre-owned items in 2024.  This is nearly double the amount of people saying they would do so compared to the start of 2023 and the increase is likely a combination of people needing to save money and reduce their environmental impact.”

The polling showed the third most selected option for unwanted Christmas gifts (17%) was to store them in the cupboard and think about them later, while 14% of people said that they would re-gift them to someone else in 2024. The latter was highest regionally in the West Midlands (18%). 

KPMG UK recently announced it had raised over £1 million for Marie Curie, its charity partner. Commenting on the survey findings, Ian Frise, the charity’s Head of Retail, added:

“Consumer shopping habits have changed and people are a lot more environmentally and budget conscious, with charity shops playing a key role in where they shop. They are treasure troves, places you can pick up unique items, as well as brand new high quality items.


“As the cost of living continues to bite, people are becoming savvy shoppers and we are starting to witness more young families visit our stores due to the vast array of items for sale.


“Premium quality clothing always sell well. But as we’re in winter, we’re currently looking for bags, jewellery and accessories, as well as toys and games.


“We are grateful to loyal supporters who always donate, as well as people donating on an ad-hoc basis. Every donation and sale goes towards making a difference for people and their loved ones needing our care and support when they are faced with a terminal illness.”

Fast Christmas fashion also unwanted

At the same time, another survey, this one by ActionAid has revealed that many Christmas outfits will also find themselves unwanted.

It found that one in five (21%) UK shoppers who planned to buy new clothes for the Christmas season say they wear them just three times or less before either throwing, selling or giving them away. This equates to an estimated 6.2million items of clothing at least being discarded or passed on after minimal use, it says.   
In its poll, almost half (44%) of shoppers said they would buy at least one new item of clothing to wear over the Christmas season, with many opting for low-cost items. More than a third (37%) said they would spend £20 or less on each item, while almost one in ten (8%) said they would spend less than £10.  
ActionAid is highlighting that cheap clothes also inevitably means low pay and poor working conditions for the people who make them. In Bangladesh – the world’s second biggest supplier of clothing – many garment workers, the vast majority of whom are women, are struggling to survive on their wages as rising prices due to the global economic crisis make essentials more expensive. 
ActionAid’s poll found that more than half (55%) of shoppers who celebrate Christmas were planning to buy at least one new item of clothing to give as a gift this year, but many will buy multiple: almost a quarter (24%) will buy four items or more while one in ten (10%) intend to buy seven or more. Only 12% planned to spend more than £50 on each gift. More than a third (38%) said they would spend £20 or less on each item of clothing and around one in ten (9%) intended to spend less than £10.  

When questioned however, more than three quarters (77%) said they would consider buying from an ethical clothing brand if it would ensure better working conditions and wages for the individuals who made it. 

BHF calls for unwanted items to be donated

For those feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff they have lying around the house, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is actively calling for people to kick start their 2024 by having a declutter and donating any unwanted Christmas gifts.

People can put them in the post by downloading a freepost label or take them down to their local BHF shop.

Allison Swaine-Hughes, Retail Director at the British Heart Foundation said:

“At the BHF, we depend on the generous donations from the public to continue to fund our lifesaving research. If you find yourself with one or two unused gifts lying around, why not make use of them and start the new year off by giving back?


“If you have any items that you want to donate, simply drop them off at any of our 680 BHF shops or post them for free. Every item sold will help keep families together for Christmases to come!”