High-level talks over rise of charity shops

Charity shops in Lytham
Charity shops in Lytham
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Fylde MP Mark Menzies is to meet an organisation representing charity shops over his claim that there are too many fund-raising stores on the high street.

Mr Menzies said in a special Parliamentary debate that the number of charity shops had reached saturation point and were beginning to edge out other town centre retail stores.

His stance was backed by traders’ representatives in St Annes, Lytham and Kirkham.

However, the Charity Retail Association (CRA) – the organisation representing charity shops in the UK – has denied the MP’s claim that there is an ‘unequal balance’ between charity shops and small commercial retailers.

In the Westminster Hall debate led by Mr Menzies himself, the Fylde MP called for business rate relief to be slashed for charity shops, the policing of the sort of goods sold in the store and to give councils the right to turn down applications to open new fund-raising outlets.

But CRA chief executive Robin Osterley said: “By what measure is Mr Menzies claiming that the number of charity shops has reached saturation point?

“It is important to remember that charity shops are not direct competitors to commercial interests, but their partners on the high streets. Charity shops contribute to footfall and help to keep vacancy rates low.

“The donated stock that they sell is not available to other retailers.”

Charity shops are granted mandatory rate relief of 80 per cent in recognition of the fact that they serve the clear charitable function of raising money for charitable causes.

But Mr Osterley says in return for this £69m concession, the charity retail sector generates more than seven times as much money which goes to charity.

Mr Menzies said: “Mr Osterley asks by what measure I am claiming the number of charity shops has reached saturation point and I am happy to tell him – by heading to high streets in Fylde and speaking to traders.

“I have arranged to meet Mr Osterley in Parliament to discuss this issue and during that meeting I will be extending an invitation for him to come to Fylde, visit our town centres and meet some local business leaders to hear their views.

“However, I went to great lengths during my debate to outline the positive contribution charity shop make to our society and I stand by those points.

“Understandably, in his position Mr Osterley will wish to protect the benefits the industry receives but I do not feel it does our high streets any good to ignore the legitimate concerns of small businesses.”