Earlier this year, we took an in depth look at how our Claire House charity shops have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Charity shops throughout England were hit hard, experiencing massive losses after nationwide shut downs, some shops even closing down completely and saying farewell to a number of beloved colleagues. As the public retreated for various unexpectedly announced quarantines and lockdowns, so did the charity shops that are so important to funding our children’s hospice and that provide our volunteers with opportunities, not to mention the countless environmental benefits that are reaped.

But now, as the nation has swung open doors to restaurants, hairdressers, shopping centres and everything in between, retail has gone into full bloom again – and so have our charity shops!
Whilst online shopping saw a soaring raise in sales over lockdown, the return to bricks-and-mortar stores has been more than welcome.

We spoke to Claire House shop manager Sara Forfar to get a real idea of how the shops have been since opening up again and to understand exactly what has changed and why.

“The shops have been riding a very successful wave at the moment”, she explained, “There was a crazy time after lockdown where we were absolutely battered with donations, people spent so much time at home where they were getting rid of everything”. Despite initially having to even turn away donations sent in the masses as people cleared their homes, it appears people have become far more aware and appreciative of the place charity shops have in our society today:  “Now people will come into the shops and say ‘is it okay if we give you this?”

This massive boom in sales can be accredited to a number of different reasons.

In our current climate, an environmentally sound and sustainable reputation has turned from a want to a necessity. Young people today are becoming more and more informed and educated on the pitfalls and dangers of fast fashion and are increasingly encouraged to shop sustainably and locally. This involves turning away from huge high street retailers such as Topshop (who saw its doors closing right at the beginning of April) and looking towards supporting small, local businesses with environmentally sound practises.

This means places like the Claire House charity shops! Since opening up, students and young adults have found the value in shopping unique vintage items of clothing and it is lauded online, with Instagram clothing accounts such as @i.got.dressed.today. The account, initially started by Andrea Loftus to encourage a positive approach to mental health by getting dressed during lockdown, labels each item of clothing which is often traced back to charity shops. Social media accounts online are highlighting how economically viable and trendy charity shop item finds are these days, with one-of-a-kind, unique items standing out amongst mass-produced online labels like Boohoo and ASOS.

The customers that frequent our shops are noticeably younger nowadays, as we find more  young adults and teenagers interested in the charity shop experience. Our shop managers have noticed items being picked out to be restyled and repurposed, as many people picked up various hobbies over lockdown like crocheting and knitting or sewing. Whether you are picking up a top that was listed on Boohoo two months ago or a vintage knit that has just come back into fashion, there is something for everyone – always at a bargain!

As the world is slowly coming out of lockdown and our day-to-day lives are returning to normality again, shoppers have loved coming back into our shops again in person. The experience of shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores again has been sorely missed, and the warm and friendly environment brought by our hard-working and enthusiastic volunteers is exactly what is bringing back the sense of spirit and community that  was lacking during the pandemic.

However, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been found by the CRA (Charity Retail Association) that the number of shop volunteers has plummeted by around 45,000 across the UK. Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA said: “With the growing public interest in reuse, now is a great time to volunteer in a charity shop and to be part of a great team raising money for charities, helping the environment by promoting reuse and bringing a real buzz and sense of community back to our high streets.”

Sara Forfar also notes the need for more volunteers in our shops: “Volunteers are something we always need more of. We need people to know you can do so many things in a charity shop. There are a lot of skills and experience to be gained, which could even eventually lead to a paid role! It’s a great laugh, we would love more young people to be involved.”

If you’d like to know more about how to get involved, please get in touch here!