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Charity retail in recovery: most charity shops have reopened but volunteers are still in short supply

Shop closures during lockdown left a hole in charities’ budgets, but continued rate reliefs and an extension to the retail grant scheme would help charity shops recover.

We spoke to Robin Osterley, Chief Executive of the Charity Retail Association (CRA), to give us an insight into the challenges faced by charity retail during the pandemic and explain why an extension of government support would aid the recovery and help charities fund their services.

Government support has been crucial for the survival of charity retail during lockdown. The job retention scheme allowed charities to furlough their retail staff, and shops benefitted from rate reliefs and retail grants. Most charity shops have reopened since lockdown measures eased in June, but sales are still below their pre-COVID level because many shops had to reduce their opening times, often due to volunteer shortages. Whereas donated goods poured into charity shops once they reopened, many of the 230,000 existing volunteers are still shielding and unable to return which has prompted a recruitment initiative  for new volunteers.