Charity Shops Welcome a Downturn Donation: Workers

Charity shops are enjoying an increase in the number of volunteers since the onset of the recession, as the newly unemployed seek to occupy themselves and retain some job skills during the downturn.

“We have seen a big increase in the number of people volunteering their time, because clearly a lot more people are out of work these days,” said Dermot McGilloway, regional manager of retail services for the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

“We’re seeing a lot more people with a lot of retail experience coming in, which is one positive to come out of the recession.

“We’ve seen a big influx of foreign nationals coming into the shops, both as volunteers and customers. In one of our shops in Rathmines we have volunteers from nine different countries.”

Oxfam Ireland has also benefited. “We have seen an increase in volunteers coming forward to all our 48 shops around the country. Pre-2009 we would often have a shortfall of volunteers at various times throughout the year, but this has not happened this year,” a spokesperson said.

Charity shops have also seen the downside of the recession.

“Like everyone we’re feeling the pinch,” Mr McGilloway said. “We are now in direct competition with the likes of Penneys, Dunnes Stores and Tesco, who have significantly dropped their prices.”

Barnardos has also experienced increased competition from the high street stores.

“The mainstream stores have dropped their prices so much that we’re now competing against them,” Barnardos’ shops development manager Colette Miller said, adding that cuts in Government funding has meant that the charity is relying on its shops more than ever.

Donations are also down on previous years. Ms Miller said there was potential for an increase in sales, and “we need stock” to generate extra business.

District retail manager for Oxfam Ireland, John Adams, said the shops had seen a drop-off in donations last year.“I suppose people were thinking, ‘I’ll hold on to that winter coat for another year’, whereas previously they would just have gone out and bought a new one.”

To combat this, Oxfam Ireland launched the “Clear Ur Gear” campaign in 2008 which has pushed donations back up in shops across the country.

The stigma in the country surrounding shopping in charity outlets is seen to be abating.

“We’ve certainly seen an increase in the number of middle-aged women who are now quite happy to come in with an open mind. People have lost that stigma of buying something that’s second hand,” Ms Miller said.

Moreover, appointments for the Barnardos bridal shop in Dún Laoghaire have soared. The dresses, which are donated by manufacturers and retailers, are brand new and retail for a fraction of the high street cost.

“As well as getting gowns which are a phenomenal quality, brides also have the feel-good factor of having supported the charity,” Ms Miller said.

Original source: The Irish Times

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