Severn Hospice gears up for phased reopening of its charity shops

A Shropshire charity is urging supporters to remember quality counts if they want to donate stock to its shops – otherwise their donation could end up costing the charity money to dispose of.

Severn Hospice cares for people living with an incurable illness
Severn Hospice cares for people living with an incurable illness

“If you wouldn’t buy it, we can’t sell it,” said Severn Hospice’s head of retail Ross Henderson, who is gearing up to a phased reopening of the charity’s shops next month.

Pre-pandemic anything that could not be sold in its shops was bought by a licensed company which then resold or recycled it, so the charity was still able to raise funds for care.

But the economic impact of the pandemic means the market for these ‘resaleable goods’, as they are known in the charity retail sector, has dramatically changed.

“We totally appreciate our supporters but everything has been affected by the pandemic and we can’t expect our usual routes for non-saleable stock to work in the same way they did before,” said Ross.

The risk is that any stock not sold through the till then becomes a cost to the charity to dispose of safely.

“I suspect many people will have done a lockdown clear-out of wardrobes and cupboards with charity shops in mind. We’re braced to receive these bags of generosity but the last thing we want is for people to think they’ve helped us when they’ve actually caused us a bit of a problem,” he added.

From Tuesday, the charity will open a special, temporary drop-off depot for donated stock at its Shrewsbury hospice site at the end of Clayton Way in Bicton.

This will be the only place it can accept donations for the time being as all its shops remain closed.

“Our temporary depot will let people drop their bags safely and go,” said Ross.

Stock will be untouched for 72 hours before retail staff will then sort it for sale on racks and rails. All clothing is checked and steamed prior to going on sale.

The first shop is not expected to open until June 15 at the earliest because of all the precautions that will now need to be put in place, said Ross.

“We want our shoppers to feel safe when they support us so we are looking at what arrangements we need to put in place in all our shops, starting with one only. As well as us getting it right, we know shoppers themselves will need to get used to a new way of browsing and buying, so we will be opening our shops gradually in phases,” he added.

Severn Hospice, which cares for families living with incurable illness in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Mid Wales, usually raises more than £1 million a year from its network of 28 shops.

But all have been shut by the lockdown and there has been no way the hospice could receive donations of stock. With all its events cancelled too and supporters confined to their homes the charity says it has lost around £100,000 a week in fundraising.

Ross added: “We asked people to support us from their sofas and they have responded so positively to that message so I’m confident our supporters will see how they can now help their donations to our shops count.”

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