There are 11,200 charity shops in the UK and Republic of Ireland generating more than £270 million of profit by way of unrestricted income for the parent charity. But it isn't just about the money...

Employment & volunteering – beyond the call of duty

Charity shops employ 22,000 staff across the country in stable, local jobs, which is really important with the rise of the 'gig' economy. On top of that there are 220,000 volunteers in the sector. A recent report from DEMOS into the social impact of charity shops uncovered the fact that younger volunteers typically benefit from developing a wide range of skills, such as team working, customer service and communications, while older volunteers say that social inclusion and community integration are most important to them.  

At Wandsworth Oasis we are proud of our Community Volunteer Programme ‘Everyone is Welcome' where vulnerable people have the opportunity to learn new skills. Our policy is to recruit volunteers to paid roles whenever possible. Since 2011, 8/10 paid vacancies have been filled by volunteers. 100% of these individuals had been unemployed for more than 2 years.

Saving the planet

Charity shops are the original recyclers and reusers on the high street. Last year, charity shops kept 330,000 tonnes of textiles out of landfill, saving councils £27 million in landfill tax. 95% of sales in charity shops are of used items.  At Wandsworth Oasis, the only stock we buy in is Christmas cards. We work closely with commercial recyclers to ensure that we do not send anything unnecessarily to landfill and are always thinking of creative ways to use items that are donated. We rarely purchase shop fittings, preferring to 'make do and mend' wherever possible.

Community benefits – our shops are local hubs, not just for HIV support/prevention

Charity shops offer a vital link between the cause and the local community, mainly for information provision. Our shops act as non-medical venues for HIV testing during HIV Testing Week, as information provision zones on HIV support and prevention, and for free condom distribution. We also offer our shops to local community groups for related plays (HIV Monologues, for example), room hire, art galleries etc.

Community benefits – the wider community

Between 2015 and 2017 we ‘gifted’ space to Wandsworth Radio, a start up local community radio station, to enable them to broadcast locally and promote local people, initiatives, charitable projects, business issues etc. that are relevant to the local community. Listening figures prove this has increased community cohesion as the radio station now is asked to broadcast a huge number of community events; has more than 200 volunteers; and in excess of 3500 listeners locally. The station could not have proceeded without our support, estimated to be worth in excess of £45,000.  

We also supported the Grenfell Tower Appeal, provided luggage for the disbanding of the Jungle in Calais and continue to enable local social enterprises, such as Share Community, to showcase their products and sell them in our shops.

Supporting the local economy

There is much debate about the number of charity shops on the high street. Whatever your views, it is clear that charity shops not only bring footfall to struggling town centres, but also can help in the regeneration of areas by introducing specialist shops etc. In the last 18 months, Wandsworth Oasis has opened new shops in buildings that have been empty for 3 years and 1 year respectively. Whilst we do not have footfall data, our shops play a definite role in the increasing regeneration of deprived areas and support local employment. 100% of our staff and volunteers are from local postcodes.

We also play a role in regeneration and rehabilitation initiatives, such as the Tooting Town Centre Partnership, the Mitcham Lane Improvement Scheme and, in conjunction with HMP Wandsworth, Recycle Your Cycle.

Reducing the cost of living

While there's no specific predictor of an average charity shop shopper these days, charity shops provide affordable everyday goods for those on low incomes and for those who are looking to save money, as well as providing a low-budget lifeline for students. Wandsworth Oasis offers a 10% discount to NHS Key Workers and students, on provision of the appropriate form of identity.