Does hospice retail have success in the bag?

Categories: Community Engagement.

The Charity Finance Charity Shops Survey 2016 was released earlier this month and was essential reading for anyone involved with or fascinated by charity shops. The annual survey was completed by 75 charities – 30 of which were hospices – and covered 7,000 shops.

Collectively, hospice retail controls 20% of the charity retail market and, with more than 2,500 stores, dwarfs the market leader British Heart Foundation, which has 735 shops.

The Charity Finance report suggests that the predicted end to the charity shop boom has begun due to increases in staff costs and rent, a reduction in volunteering hours, and the continued drop in rag price. As a result, an average decrease in profits of almost 12% has been reported.

Digging deeper into the figures reveals pressure on income comes from all angles. Councils across the UK are scrutinising business rate relief, while the introduction of the living wage has had a major impact, as has pension auto enrolment.

Volunteers are becoming harder to find as people are retiring later and have greater family responsibilities. The steady economy is also having an impact, with those seeing volunteering as a step to permanent work not requiring that interim step. And while the economy makes it mind up about the post Brexit world less people are using charity shops to buy essentials.

So where does hospice retail stand in all this doom and gloom? According to the survey hospices, while suffering the same problems, are holding their own and in some cases setting the pace for national charities to follow.

In claiming Retail Gift Aid, St Michael’s Hospice in Basingstoke tops the poll with 48% of donations Gift Aided, resulting in a £153k contribution to the charity. They also have the highest number of volunteer hours.

Arthur Rank Hospice in Cambridge is top of the poll for both increase in income (up 34.4%) and profit (146.5%). Welcome news as the hospice moves into a brand new building. They are also the third largest seller of Christmas cards in the survey with 6% of income coming from festive greetings.

St Rocco’s Hospice in Warrington tops the poll for highest profit per shop per week for hospices with 10 or less shops with 30% more profit than the non hospice equivalent. Severn Hospice led the way in the 11-24 shop category.

While this survey is a snapshot in time it is really encouraging to see hospices featured so highly in a survey valued by charity retailers.

What makes hospice retail special?

Hospice retail mirrors the national picture with an increasing online presence, more specialist shops and a move away from the traditional high street to retail parks. However, what makes hospice retail special?

There is no doubt that the ‘localism’ of hospice retail is a real strength, particularly with donations. At a recent meeting with the Charity Retail Association they expressed amazement at the level of hospice stock donations, when many national charities are desperate for stock. The quality of donated goods is acknowledged by shoppers as being very good.

However, there is more to it than that. Hospice retail has flair and imagination, knows what shoppers want and is in tune with the local economy.

Despite overall figures from this survey being weaker this year, the mean profit margin is over 20% – a figure that M&S and Tesco would be more than happy with.

To find out how your hospice retail can develop further, put 5 April 2017 in your diary, when the Hospice UK Retail Conference will take place at the Birmingham Conference & Events Centre. Booking will be open from mid November for the event ‘Hospice Retail – Reinvention or Revolution?’

We are also looking for a representative for the south west region to join our Retail Steering Group. Please contact Elizabeth Palfreman if you would be interested in helping hospice retail to grow nationally.

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