Is hospice retail ahead of the curve?

Categories: Care.

Now in its 26th year, the Charity Finance Charity Shops Survey is fascinating reading for anyone involved in hospice retail.

The survey was completed by 76 charity retailers including the giant chains of Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation and Barnardo’s. The latter aspires to be the largest charity retailer challenging current title holders British Heart Foundation.  However, if hospice retail was combined under one brand then it would dwarf both those organisations by controlling more than 2,500 charity shops and 20 per cent of the market. Hospice retailers contributed £55 million towards patient care last year, but how do they compare to the rest of the charity shop sector?


Many of the trends were shared across the sector. The growth in shop numbers is static with new entrants into the market replacing those pulling out.  Hospices continue to open shops but there appears to be more caution. Income across the sector is up 2.7 per cent, yet costs outstrip that figure by rising 4.1 per cent. However this is an improvement on last year when they rose by 11.1 per cent.  

This suggests that the impact of the minimum wage, which hit charity retail hard, has worked through the system. However rent increases, the reduction of rate relief, and councils increasing charges for taking waste away, are pushing costs up.  

Attracting volunteers continues to be an ongoing issue and this may account for the increase in the number of paid staff. Another reason may be that increasingly complex retail responsibilities require paid rather than voluntary staff.  The hospices surveyed had more than 9,000 volunteers, with more per shop than other charities. Across the board all volunteers are working less hours.

Hospice retail performance

There is a glimmer of hope surrounding the rag price, that has started to creep back up. The average price per kilo is quoted as 42p, a long way from the glory days, but better than it has been. Anecdotal knowledge says hospice retailers are getting a better than average price which is good news.

The report makes much of the innovation of major chains leading them to open of out of town superstores where their return on the square metre is higher. As many hospices have had these outlets for years it would seem the national charities are following rather than innovating.

So which hospices are doing well according to the survey? Four hospices are more profitable than the top non-hospice performer, with St Rocco’s in Warrington claiming the top spot with a profit margin of 58.4 per cent, a full 15 per cent higher than the top non-hospice charity.  

On the income league table St Peter’s in Bristol comes in as top hospice in 20th position, with an income of £7.2 million across its 51 shops. This is up 8.5 per cent on the previous year. Not surprisingly St Peter’s also attracts the most Gift Aid at £526,000 per year, but it is St Michael’s in Hampshire that continues to attain the highest percentage, with 49 per cent of donated goods being Gift Aided.

Arthur Rank in Cambridge continues to see the highest income growth at 26.7 per cent, which puts it second in that table, and is a great result from a small chain. They also win the battle of the Christmas cards with 4.8 per cent of income coming from their sales. However, the Paul Sartori Foundation in Wales has the biggest growth in profits at 21.4 per cent.

Ashgate Hospice in Derbyshire win the crown for income generated from new goods, which accounts for 16.5 per cent. Take a look at their new website to see innovation that would be the envy of many charity retailers.

Online trading is a growing income source with the survey participants reporting 36 per cent growth. Generally, trading is done through existing auction sites for donated goods or through hospice websites for Christmas cards and gifts, so the Ashgate proposition is an exciting one.

This survey is only a snapshot of what is happening in charity retail, and figures alone do not tell the whole story. Combine these figures with anecdotal evidence of the passion, flair and innovation seen in hospice retail and you appreciate that our retail is ahead of the curve and the envy of others within the sector.

Hospice UK’s annual retail conference will take place at Chesford Grange, 1 May 2018. The Hospice UK retail steering group meets quarterly and details of representatives can be found here.

For more information about the survey visit Charity Retail 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *