Is multi-channel retail relevant to charity retail?

Categories: Community Engagement.

How different is charity retail to high street retail, in reality?

With high street retail having evolved into a multi-channel approach, covering the various in-store and online platforms, it is often discussed whether this is something charity retailers such as hospices can and should adopt.

There are areas in which charity retail is very different to high street retail – volunteer staff, donated goods, gift aid – not to mention the reason why the sector exists: to support a good cause.

Conversely, there are areas in which charity retail is seen to be very similar. Many charity retailers:

  • have multiple stores and sales platforms
  • sell goods (both new and donated)
  • take cash and credit cards
  • have a need to look after customers and provide great customer service
  • attract customers looking for a specific item or simply an impulse purchase
  • specialise in different sectors.

Helping volunteers

Let’s focus on one of the main differences. The first and often foremost is the volunteer staff. They are the lifeblood of the charity and they provide absolutely invaluable support.

When it comes to charity retail, the first thing charities need to do is to make the volunteers’ role as simple as possible and one of the most traumatic areas is the till.

This involves, in some charities, many different jobs just to sell an item. They have to decide whether it’s a gift aid item – if it is they have to record that by writing it on a piece of paper, scanning a barcode or peeling off a label – then they have to enter the price (correctly) and select the right category.

Virtually no other retailer on the high street relies on a member of staff to enter the price correctly, never mind an unpaid member of staff.

This is one of the areas we used our high street retail mentality to review, and we solved this area of weakness immediately to enable a volunteer to just scan one barcode to enter gift aid, the price and the category in one go.

Our Advanced Gift Aid module has increased gift aid and average transaction values significantly, with hundreds of charities (including over 70 hospices) adopting our CharityStore solution.

Lindsey Lodge Hospice has seen revenue from gift aid increase 73% since implementation. Michael Coulson, internet trading coordinator at the hospice, explains: “CharityStore was the first charity EPoS system to include gift aid, which helps us to raise vital income. We use the Advanced Gift Aid module which is effortless, quick and easy to use.

“We can say with certainty what each shop is taking in gift aid. Now we can tell where it’s come from, see all the donors and contact them, it’s made a big difference.

“We used to claim about £23,000 a year, we’re now topping the £40,000 mark which is great.”

By taking a high street retail idea and applying it to charity, it has helped close the gap between the two to increase revenue for the charity.

How multi-channel can work for charities

When it comes to the similarities between high street and charity retail, we’re drawn towards the online and multi-channel world.

All of us purchase online, it’s simply a part of what we do in the 21st century and it’s an area that’s still growing, largely down to how quick and convenient buying something from the comfort of your own home is.

It’s a fact that’s no different for consumers whether they’re purchasing from a large high street retailer or a charity.

However, many charities don’t do this very well at the moment. This is often down to the complications of trying to manage inventory across multiple channels, the fact that goods are donated (which makes it difficult to control), reluctance to miss out on gift aid by selling online, or staff simply not being savvy with the digital world.

Selling via these different channels can seem like a bit too much of a hassle for charity retailers, but with some technical improvements it can be made very easy and improve sales for charity stores just like it has for high street stores, whether it’s on their own ecommerce site or eBay store.

What’s more, some may say charities have even more of a reason to sell via multiple channels due to the products they sell.

From a designer handbag to a rare book, charities attract some of the most sought after and collectible items in stores. Listing such items online or on eBay enables them to reach a whole new and expanded audience, which in turn helps the charities to achieve the best price for them.

Those very volunteers that make charity retail different from high street retail can actually be utilised for their expert knowledge of rare items which can be listed online.

So how do charities overcome the obstacles? Historically, charities have had to choose which channel to sell a rare item on as there’s only one of it, and have had to ring fence a certain amount of new goods stock to enable them to sell online.

Cybertill’s CharityStore solution allows you to do all three simultaneously by integrating it within the EPoS system, all in 100% real-time, and protects again lost gift aid sales by allowing you to claim gift aid on donated items sold on eBay.

This means expanding the product’s availability from the visitors to a single store to 17 million viewers on eBay and many more via your ecommerce website.

An item can remain in store for the rummage, be on your website and on eBay and it goes to the first buyer.

The same applies to new goods, you can send them all out to stores and have them shipped out if one sells online.

Similarly, if a range of new goods isn’t selling in-store, you can list it online and free up valuable shelf space. This approach to centralised stock control across all sales channels has enabled charities like Lindsey Lodge Hospice to increase sales on new goods by 25%.

It’s clear that with their unique proposition, multi-channel retail really can work for charity retailers to help them increase sales and gain new customers and with a single, unified system to do this they can remove the hassle from the process.

Cybertill supported the Hospice UK annual retail conference Beyond Traditional earlier this week, and works with over 70 hospice retailers to help them work more efficiently and increase revenue, to find out more visit their website.

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