Customer shopping trends are still evolving with the buying preloved goods becoming increasingly popular for range of reasons including the growing cost of buying new, and the increasing desire to help the planet.  These changes have boosted sales and grown the confidence for charities to grow and further develop their retail businesses.  This has really helped the high streets, who continue to change with a shrinking number of traditional retailers and the growing move to online shopping.

The key is to align individual charity shops to what the local customers want.  This requires a clear understanding of local trading patterns and the right stock package to support the right shop format, with the correct use of retail space, pricing of donations based upon science rather than judgement to ensure the ideal local customer offer and shopping experience is delivered.  Simply replicating the standard charity retail format and keeping the same retail offer is less likely to be as successful in the future.  One solution is differentiation of style of charity shops, and this will be criticially important to meet the local consumer requirements now and in the future. 

To address this changing environment and to take advantage of the market conditions there is a growing differentiation and high street strategies between charity retail shops. Whilst in the past most charity retailer’s shops were similar in style, today there is a growing trend towards differentiation. Apart from a growing trend towards creative and sometimes unique charity shop styles an increasing number of charities are upgrading their quality of shop fits for charity shops and of course these shop fits have become increasingly more expensive. It is not simply creative and unique charity shop fits and styles that are changing, an increasing number of charities are giving their new concept shops creative names, like Used, Edit, Forum, Threads, Daisy and many others.    

The new styles of charity shops sometimes, including Disk Jockeys geared to appeal to the younger customers, community spaces, Café’s, gaming areas and low product density. The charity supermarket concept that has moved across the UK shopping centres, utilising empty retail space and with a range of different charities both local and national charities working together has been a successful experiment.   

Whilst it is very early to make conclusions on some of the differentiation charity retailers are trying, if the reason for a charity retail business is profit / unrestricted income then the key basics must not be ignored. For clarity the basics are:

Donation Generation

  • Ease of donating: Parking outside or very close.
  • Clarity of the charity cause: If the shop does not clearly state the charity name above the shop it is most likely to reduce donations over the door.
  • Donation alignment: Unique boutique style charity shops can reduce donations because some donors will believe their basic donations are not wanted.

 Donation Pricing

  • Optimum Pricing: Obtaining the optimum price for the donations is very difficult but important based upon shop location, format / style of shop, staff knowledge / training and the use of sales related data. This generates considerable additional sales and it is equally important for every style and format of charity shop.   

Customer Journey

  • Use of product positioning: Positioning of products within all retail businesses is criticially important and while traditional retailers use specialist teams to assist with this key retail discipline charities don’t have the benefit from this input. These are often called ‘hot spots’ and product positioning generates considerable additional sales and it is important for every style and format of charity shop.
  • Influencing the customer in shop Journey: The scientific positioning of fixtures and displays is proven to influence the customer journey around all retail shops, and this is especially important for every style and format of charity shop.


Charity retail differentiation is happening, and successful formats will emerge and grow, but the exiting thing is the range of different creative ideas. Providing the performance is accurately measured and including all indirect associated costs and differentiation is part of a clear detailed retail strategy it is something all charities will be considering.

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