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The Sidcup charity shop debate

PUBLISHED: 16:40 01 August 2013 | UPDATED: 12:02 02 August 2013

Views of Sidcup High Street

Views of Sidcup High Street

Archant

With the number of charity shops on the increase in high streets up and down the country, the Bexley Times takes at look at Sidcup town centre to see how they are affecting trade, residents and how important they are to the organisations they support.

Paul LaundyPaul Laundy

Sidcup resident Paul Laundry

There is no way that charity shops are responsible for the decline in Sidcup or any other high street. They are to some extent a symbol of decline in that charity shops fill premises vacated by failed retail shops. The failure of these independent retail shops pre-dates the recession and can be attributed to unfair competition from the town centre supermarket.

The majority of the members I have spoken to would rather have charity shops than boarded up premises and they offer a variety of goods for shoppers. There is a link between many of the non-foodstuffs that the supermarket sells and the closure of independent stores. For example, members have bemoaned the lack of a fishmonger.

I believe that there is a stigma to charity shops which to a large extent is not justified. It dates back to the concept of second- hand goods. However, charity shops are well patronised, offer value for money and support good causes.

Mike Lowe. Pic by Derek HopeMike Lowe. Pic by Derek Hope

Trader Mike Lowe, owner of the Sidcup Barber Shop

Charity shops are brilliant and serve an important purpose in the community.

There are about seven charity shops in Sidcup. A small percentage of shoppers will come into the high street to shop there in particular but I don’t think they are competition for other businesses in the area.

Sidcup MP James Brokenshire meets Head Girl Sonia Lall and Head Boy James TrippSidcup MP James Brokenshire meets Head Girl Sonia Lall and Head Boy James Tripp

Sometimes charity shops are easy to blame for some high streets that aren’t doing too well, but traders need to look at their own businesses and what they are doing wrong.

Any shopping area needs a mix of shops to attract all types of customers. In this economic climate, shops offering bargains have been given a real boost, particularly charity shops.

The only issue I have is that charities pay less rates than everyone else, which isn’t particularly fair.

Manager of Age UK in Sidcup High Street, Jean CourtManager of Age UK in Sidcup High Street, Jean Court

Old Bexley and Sidcup MP James Brokenshire

Charity shops have an important role in keeping the high street vibrant and active.

The perception of a bring and buy sale arrangement does not reflect charity shops now, it’s always much more of a retail experience.

I am certainly not opposed to them, particularly as they raise money for good causes. They are very different from how people traditionally perceive them to be.

Charity shops have always had a role with people and they provide a ready source of items to meet their needs.

They are not detracting from other retailers on the high street.

I am looking more positively at Sidcup High Street with the arrival of Waitrose in September and other businesses.

I believe charity shops complement existing shops and meet a need for goods that are second-hand.

They have a role on the high street, particularly when landlords are unable to fill a shop unit.

I would prefer to see a charity shop than no shop at all.

High streets look rundown and less positive with empty shop fronts but they should not be dominated by charity shops.

Jean Court, manager of Age UK in Sidcup High Street

The more charity shops the better – bring it on. Two more have opened in the high street and it has not affected us at all and our sales are up from last year.

People will come back if you’re seen to be competitive. We have our regulars in here every day, sometimes twice a day. We put 200 items of clothes out a day, six days a week. We’re doing really well and people know that – it’s really busy.

People will always like charity shops. There used to be a stigma with them but not any more, now they’re seen as more fashionable and trendy.

The youngsters come in for retro clothes and there’s lots of themed parties now on the 70s and 80s, which helps too. It’s only a little bit to do with the recession. We had an extension last year in the shop and we can fit even more in now.

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