Mixed fortunes for charity shops

PUBLISHED: 12:26 22 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:50 07 September 2010

North London Hospice Shop in Crouch End

North London Hospice Shop in Crouch End

© Nigel Sutton 17 Redington Rd,London,NW37QX. Phone 020 7794 3008. email

CHARITY shops across north London are experiencing mixed fortunes during difficult economic times. Stores around Hampstead say times are tough yet in Crouch End and Muswell Hill, shops are positively thriving. The Ham&High and Broadway reporters took to

CHARITY shops across north London are experiencing mixed fortunes during difficult economic times.

Stores around Hampstead say times are tough yet in Crouch End and Muswell Hill, shops are positively thriving.

The Ham&High and Broadway reporters took to the high streets to discover how charity shops are surviving during troubled times.

CHARITY stores in and around Hampstead are struggling to survive as they claim donations are few and far between.

They say people are holding on to their possessions or selling them on online auction sites like eBay in a bid to make some cash.

"We're struggling to get enough donations," said Betty Elong, manager of the British Red Cross shop in Finchley Road.

"Money is tough for a lot of people and they want to sell their stuff instead."

The overall decline in donations, coupled with an increasing demand for cheap goods, has left some shops struggling to provide for their customers.

The British Red Cross shop often relies on other branches to provide new stock and it can make as little as £400 a week during quiet periods like the present time.

Meanwhile, charity shops in nearby West End Lane are also feeling the pinch.

Bo Hu, at the Cancer Research charity shop, revealed his sales were down by 30 per cent.

"People simply don't want to spend their money," he said.

And it seems the sheer number of charity shops in the area - there are six alone on this stretch of West End Lane - makes the competition for donations fierce.

"We don't get enough donations because there are too many charity shops in West Hampstead," said Mr Hu.

"Plus, the others keep putting their prices down."

However, it's not all doom and gloom. Other shops say the credit crunch has been good for business as bargain hunters increasingly turn their back on the high street in favour of second-hand goods.

Sinead Lehane, manager of the Children's Society shop in West End Lane, said: "We are doing really well.

"Profits are up on this time last year - we take between £2,500 and £3,000 a week, so we are consistently going over our target of £2,000. It's great."

Savvy shoppers say charity shops are the best places to grab a bargain.

"I always shop in Oxfam as I can't afford the high street," said Tilly Yates, 21, a student from Hampstead.

"I go to charity shops for quirky vintage stuff, one-off pieces you can't anywhere else. I've just bought a pair of amazing leather boots for £8, which is pretty cheap."

Patrick Forster, 53, a pub landlord, agreed: "Charity shops are much cheaper and better value and you can get perfectly decent stuff. Spending a lot is silly."

Despite the concerns of some local shopkeepers, a recent survey by Charity Finance magazine found that charity

CHARITY shops are reporting a roaring trade in Crouch End and Muswell Hill as credit-crunch victims turn their backs on expensive brands and go on the hunt for cheap but chic bargains.

Branches of Sue Ryder Care and the North London Hospice in Muswell Hill and Crouch End have been particularly busy, with donations rolling in.

Wendy Oyston, manager of the North London Hospice on Topsfield Parade in Crouch End, said the combination of her shop's refurbishment and the economic downturn had given business a big boost. She said: "We seem to be lucky; takings are good and we're still getting lots of nice donations."

Ms Oyston felt their good fortune was likely to continue, especially since the closure of Woolworths on The Broadway: "I expect us to have more people coming in for bits and bobs since Woolies shut, " she said.

Mrs Reeves, the manager of Sue Ryder Care on Muswell Hill Broadway, confirmed business has been booming in the past couple of months. She said: "We were very busy before Christmas, and things have been picking up again in the last week or two".

She was also keen to stress that their low prices do not mean poor quality clothing. She said: "Ladies' tops are the most popular; our clothes are good quality - not the sort where you wash them once and have to throw them away."

Crouch End's branch of Oxfam on Park Road, which specialises in books and music, is attracting customers looking to tighten their belts with a recession-busting promotion. Chris Bergson, the shop manager, said: "Our Great Night In promotion means people can come and buy books, DVDs, and records cheaply, and enjoy themselves on a budget."

The manager of Cancer Research UK on Muswell Hill Broadway, however, had a different story to tell. She said the quality of donations had plummeted and their current stock is not selling. "We're desperate for winter clothes," she said: "we can't put out what we haven't got."

Magda Walter, a spokeswoman for Oxfam, had concerns about the next 12 months despite a growth in sales since the beginning of the financial year. She said: "The picture is not that great as we're beginning to see a fall in donations - people hang onto their clothes for longer during a recession and they're not doing a wholesale wardrobe change."

She also stressed that the global financial crisis meant that they are in need of donations now more than ever: "The bottom line is that this is not a boom," she said.

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