Opinion divided on charity shops’ value

The new assistant manager Linda Astill ( L) who has been promoted at the British Heart Foundation shop, Bowen Square, Daventry.
The new assistant manager Linda Astill ( L) who has been promoted at the British Heart Foundation shop, Bowen Square, Daventry.

As Daventry’s latest charity shop prepares to open its doors, opinion is divided over their impact on the town centre and other businesses.

The Algernon Trust animal charity announced it would be opening a store in Sheaf Street and the Daventry Express posted the story on its Facebook page, prompting a series of reader comments.

Paul Bowditch and Dawn Willetts

Paul Bowditch and Dawn Willetts

The Gusher then carried out its own survey of the town centre. From 169 shop fronts, excluding the big supermarkets, 12 of these were occupied by charites.

This equates to 7.1 per cent being charity shops, thought to be well above the national average of 4.5 per cent, according to figures from the Government and Charity Retail Association.

Paul Bowditch, who runs the Pigeonhole off North Street, told the paper: “Personally I enjoy browsing charity shops. But as a business owner I’d have to say charity shops get a lot of benefits – they get 80 per cent off their rates, don’t pay VAT, many of their staff are volunteers and the stock is mostly donations.

“Some are multi-million pound businesses. What I’d like to see is equality for all. Whoever takes on a unit should be treated the same.”

Darren Hayes, who runs Top Tastic Photography Studios, and works at The Hideout Cafe in Sheaf Street, said: “The council needs to reduce rent and rates to make empty buildings viable for businesses not only charity shops.

“We looked opening a boys’ clothes store but rent was too high. I bet it was half the cost for a charity.”

Other people on Facebook also reacted with dismay over the news of another charity shop arriving in the town.

Amanda Thorne said: “Sounds like no one can afford to buy new, doesn’t make the town an appealing place to visit.”

Jo Bishop said: “The other problem with yet another charity shop is that it isn’t exactly bringing jobs to the area just more unpaid voluntary positions.”

Steve Johnston said: “This seems to be a serious state of affairs; it shows a real lack of ambition.”

Customers and volunteers as well as the good cause all benefit from charity shops, say those involved in them.

The shops can help job-seekers improve their CVs says Dawn Smith, manager of the Air Ambulance shop in Foundry Walk.

She said: “Our shop takes enough per week to pay for two missions of the helicopter. That’s potentially two lives saved. Together I’d guess all the Air Ambulance shops in town would fund five or six missions.

“We also get a lot of interest in our volunteer positions.

“Some of our volunteers are actively seeking work and come in to get experience and build up their references.

“Others want to volunteer here because of the friendly, open atmosphere we try to create among the staff and customers.”

Customers also benefit from having choice and products that might not otherwise be available says Penny Moore, manager of the British Heart Foundation Store. She said: “The new charity shop in Sheaf Street is for animals, and that’s different to any we’ve already got in Daventry. Some people want to support certain causes.

“We get people coming in on a regular basis, and I’m sure they’ll go to other shops in the town on the same day. We get people in who enjoy looking for a bargain, and we get people who can’t necessarily afford more expensive things.”