According to the British Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), the UK ranks among the most generous countries in the world when it comes to charitable donations. Last year alone,
- Over £10 billion were given to charity via cash and card alone.
- 64 percent of people took part in charitable activities, from donating money, to giving items, to volunteering, to petitioning their representatives.
With these astonishing figures in mind, it is no surprise that charity retailing is a big business in the UK. As a matter of fact, many of the charity organizations in the country are present on the territory with their own networks of retail stores. These shops, which are popular with Britons, are used to collect donations, raise awareness of the parent charity, and resell donated items to consumers. According to the Charity Retail Association, there are over 11,000 shops operated by charities in the UK, and they generate around £300 million through their tills every single year. That’s quite the business!
Charities have a lot of momentum - but there are also warning signs at the horizon.
A competitive landscape
Charities operate in a complex landscape. They face challenges on different fronts, the CAF reports, mentioning decreasing public trust and a long-term lack of government support. When they manage a network of shops there are also extra costs to consider. “Rents, rates, electricity, heat and light – all have to be paid for,” says Gail Kennedy, retail operations manager at Age Action.
Now add to this already difficult scenario the complexities that come with managing a retail chain, and keep it profitable. It is unsurprising that many charities are struggling to generate more income!
Some of the charity retailers have realized that increasing their investment in technology can help them offset some of their high costs, and at the same time enable them to respond to increasing consumer demands. As a matter of fact, investing in IT is seen as a key priority by most charities, the CAF reports. And it pays off: a big retailer like Oxfam managed to reduce its operating costs by an impressive 4.5 percent by simply streamlining its distribution operation, and closing stores that were not profitable.
It’s all about the staff
A while ago, LS Retail Vice President Carsten Wulff attended a meeting with volunteers and employees of UK-based charity Sue Ryder. “I was deeply inspired by how committed the people working in the stores are to the goals of their charity,” Carsten said. “It’s not often that you see so much creativity, enthusiasm and fighting spirit!”
Two traits appear frequently among people working in charity shops: high levels of enthusiasm, and a feeling of being very different from high street retailers. Charity retail is, indeed, quite different from traditional one. For starters, the sourcing and supply of items in thrift stores is not the same as in traditional retail. But the largest difference is, perhaps, the staff. In your typical high street shop, sales associates may not be very invested in what they sell. At the same time, they are well educated on the products, and trained to sell as much as possible. In charity stores, it’s often the opposite: the volunteers are there to support a cause they believe in, and to whose success they want to contribute. They have the drive and the passion – but sometimes they lack the means to sell more.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could combine the commitment and enthusiasm of the charity shop volunteers with the sales efficiency of the professional sales associates?
Good news: it is possible, with the right retail technology.
LS One, equipping your store to succeed
A POS and back office system that combines simplicity and convenience with the right set of retail functionality can be a real asset to charity retailers. Our Point of Sale solution LS One has all these characteristics – which is why it’s steadily growing in popularity in the non-profit and charity sector.
Take your charity business, and imagine being able to:
- Plan special offers and promotions that deliver results. With LS One, you can set up sales promotions, offers and campaigns for each single shop, or for your whole chain. Are you overflowing with books and dresses in some stores? Set a Mix & Match promotion – say, “Buy 2 books and 1 garment, get 30 percent off” – that is valid only in specific locations. You can do it beforehand from HQ, and then track the success of the campaign as it is running. The best part is, your in-store staff won’t have to do anything: when a discounted item is scanned, the correct price will show automatically at the POS. Easy and effective.
- Reward returning customers with loyalty schemes. In LS One, you can set up and design your loyalty program the way that best fits your business and your customer base. You set your goals and strategy; the tech will get you there.
- Drive traffic in quiet periods using “happy hour” offers, vouchers, and coupons valid only during off-peak hours. You can easily set them up and control them from HQ, with no burden on the volunteers.
- Keep track of the donations you receive. With LS One you can easily accept and record both cash and item donations – all the while keeping track of the donor’s details, which you can then use to claim Gift Aid. The system also lets you analyze the donations received and easily see the turnover that donated items are producing.
- Optimize stock distribution across stores. Too many tea cups in one store, and not enough in another? That’s no problem. With LS One, you can use the stock transfer functionality to move items effectively between your shops, so you always have the right mix in all locations. This means fewer customers who leave empty-handed, and fewer items that have to be discounted due to overstock.
- Have a system that is quick to learn and easy to use. With LS One, you can easily customize the till screens to your needs, as well as to each user role. For example, you can reduce the number of buttons at the POS so in-store staff can quickly learn how to use the technology. Or set up a role-based view with limited functionality, so drop-in volunteers can quickly learn how to perform basic sales operations. LS One also has a built-in training mode, so you can get new employees ready to go as quickly as possible, whenever you need to.
- Customize it to the needs of each shop location. Would you like to have a different setup for each store? You can. Would you like to add new locations – perhaps something special, like a pop-up shop, or a café? With LS One, you can do all this. Easily.
Charity stores already have an edge over traditional retailers: the feel-good factor of making a purchase that is good for both the society and the environment. This is something that modern consumers really care about: a staggering 93 percent of global consumers expect the brands they use to support social and environmental issues, the Retail Industry Leaders Association reports.
What charity retailers are missing in the competition with traditional retail is the right technology. Once you are able to manage your products effectively, know what is available and where, and can quickly give customers product information and close sales on the shop floor – then you can really give a service that rivals the high street.
Is a technology gap keeping you from maximizing revenue to your stores, and to your parent charity? Would you like to see if LS One can help you the same way it is already supporting other charities do more good? If so, contact us. We’ll be happy to show you the system, and see how it can fit your needs.