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Charities lose ‘vital’ funds with closure of second hand shops

'These shops pay for vital work, and it seems unfair that they can’t stay open while off-licences and estate agents can'

29 January, 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby

The Rock N Roll Rescue charity shop in Parkway

WHEN a high street unit becomes available, you do not have to go too far to hear somebody say:

Not another charity shop? The retail guru Mary Portas once recommended to the government that there should be a cap on the number allowed in one shopping street.

But charities warned this week that they were losing “vital” funds since fundraising second hand shops were forced to close during the coronavirus lockdown.

Ian “Knox” Carnochan, owner of independent charity shop Rock’n’Roll Rescue in Parkway, Camden Town, said: “I think charity shops are going to be needed more than ever after all this is over. “Many people will need help for all sorts of reasons. I’m especially worried about the amount who will be suffering from depression and anxiety after isolation. Charities are going to play an important role in tackling these issues.”

The shop, next to the legendary Dublin Castle music venue, has been open for six years and sells musical instruments and items, and donates its proceeds to several local charities including Trussell Trust, Street Vet, Mind, and Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town.

Mr Carnochan added: “I think the crisis has really made people more aware of those in our communities who need help, so I hope this means when everything opens up they will support their local charities.” Covid-19 has meant the loss of tens of millions of pounds across the sector, with some charities having to close certain stores for good.

Maria Chenoweth, chief executive of Traid, a charity focused on reducing the impact of the clothing industry on the environment, said: “So many social elements rely heavily on charity shops. Think of the hospice shops and Cancer Research to name just a couple. These shops pay for vital work, and it seems unfair that they can’t stay open while off-licences and estate agents can.”

Traid’s flagship store, situated in Camden High Street, Camden Town, sells unwanted and unworn clothing to prevent them from ending up in landfill. Income from its 12 shops goes towards projects including helping farmers switch to growing organic cotton, and provide childcare for Bangladeshi mothers forced to work long hours in sweat shops or factories.

“There has to be a change in mindset because we’re not like other retail shops on the high street,” Ms Chenoweth added. “We’ve had to shut our shops and carry on paying rent and other operational costs. We, like many, are affected by high commercial rents and landlords unwilling to give financial assistance. But we’ve also had to carry on helping the people who need us.”

Michaela Seymour, the manager of Kentish Town’s PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) store, said the charity had already had to close some of its shops for good.

“We’ve got so many people asking for help and yet we’ve been unable to open for months – it’s quite worrying really,” she said. “Thankfully our Kentish Town shop will reopen when this lockdown ends.”

She added: “I’d say if you normally shop in charity shops then don’t stop now, find another way to support them, maybe make donations or shop via their websites.”

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