May 17 - Charity shops are experiencing a record boom as more of the squeezed middle classes buy second hand in a bid to save money. Hayley Platt reports.
Another bag of cast-offs for one of Britain's growing number of charity shops. There are now more than 9,000 charity retailers across the UK. And they've just had their best year ever - reporting an annual income of almost £1 billion - a third more than last year. As Brits are hit by price rises and wage cuts more and more people are buying second hand. Linda Archer is the manager of the British Red Cross charity shop in Kent, south east England. SOUNDBITE: Linda Archer, Manager, British Red Cross charity shop, Sidcup, Kent, saying (English): "We're getting customers that wouldn't have looked at charity shops at one time. We're getting more professional people that use charity shops that wouldn't have done before. If people want evening wear or one-off items they will come in here rather than spend a lot of money that they haven't got." SOUNDBITE: Suzanne, shopper, saying (English): "You find things that haven't been unearthed for years or it will be something different to what anyone else has got. I've been to Ascot in charity shop clothes." It's good news in one way but there are fewer donations. And that's an issue says Warren Alexander of the Charity Retail Association. SOUNDBITE: Warren Alexander, Chief Executive of the Charity Retail Association, saying (English): "Supply is really the biggest problem charity shops face. Donations have fallen off and most of our members will say to us that donations of stock are becoming a problem and we also know though that about 75% of the people in the UK has at least two bags of things in their wardrobe that they no longer wear and no longer want. If they were to take those into a charity shop and give them to the shops, charities could make lots of money from them." Charity shops also face fierce competition from commercial second-hand clothing shops and a slightly shadier side of the industry. SOUNDBITE: Warren Alexander, Chief Executive of the Charity Retail Association, saying (English): "There are also criminal elements out there that are stealing bin bags that have been left outside people's houses for collection that are pretending to be charities and there is organised crime that is indeed selling stuff in eastern Europe doing who knows what." The Association is now campaigning for more people to donate their unwanted belongings for good causes. Even the more unusual items. SOUNDBITE: Linda Archer, Manager, British Red Cross, saying (English): "We've had a set of cow horns, giant cow horns just recently that came from an opticians, you can never tell what's going to come in, it's like Christmas day every day." With Britain in recession and much of Europe not doing much better charity shopping could be the answer for those lacking in funds but still desperate for a dose of retail therapy. Hayley Platt, Reuters.