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Carsten Wulff | 04 May 2018

How to increase revenue in your charity shop

How to increase revenue in your charity shop
According to the British Charities Aid Foundation, the UK is the most generous country in Europe when it comes to charity. In 2017,
  • 75 percent of people donated to charity
  • 32 percent of people volunteered for a good cause – an increase of 1.58 million people!
  • 63 percent of people assisted a stranger in need.

With these astonishing figures in mind, it is no surprise that charity retailing is a big business. In the UK alone, there are around 75 charity organizations, operating 6,900 stores and generating around £300 million for charity. Different estimates suggest that about £1 billion every year passes through the tills of the charity retailers. That’s quite the business! Though charities have a lot of momentum, there are also warning signs.

Not all sunshine and rainbows

The True and Fair Foundation estimates that charity shops only make 17 percent profit on store revenue. Moreover, the competition between charities is increasing. In response to this and to other external retail pressures, such as discount fashion stores and online shopping, charity retailers must begin to reassess how their brand is perceived by consumers.

It’s all about the staff

After attending a Sue Ryder meeting in Manchester, I came back deeply inspired by how committed the people working in the stores are to their charity. Very seldom have I experienced so much creativity, enthusiasm and fighting spirit, all fueled by the desire to bring good results to the local Sue Ryder store. I have also noticed that the enthusiastic staff in the charity retail sector often see themselves as very different from high street retailers. To some extent they are right: sourcing and supply of items in thrift stores is very different from traditional retailers. The largest difference, though, probably has to do with the staff. The store associate in the high street retail store is well educated on the products, and trained to sell as much as possible. On the other hand, the volunteers in charity retail stores are there because of a cause they believe in, and want to contribute to; they have the will, but they sometimes lack the means to sell more. How can we combine the commitment and enthusiasm of the charity shop volunteers with the sales efficiency of the professional sales associates? The answer is: with retail technology!

Equip your store to succeed

By implementing a POS and management system, charity retailers can increase foot traffic and empower their staff. A complete management system like LS Central or a retail POS system such as LS One can enable charity retailers to:
  • Plan ahead sales promotions, offers and campaigns. Prices will update automatically at the POS.
  • Use “happy hour” and coupons to drive traffic in quiet periods.
  • Support impulse buys at the till – for example having the POS suggest additional items before you close the sale.
  • Do upsells and cross-selling – some items can be set to trigger messages to the cashier suggesting related items.
  • Implement customer loyalty schemes – offer meaningful rewards in return for purchase.
  • Use a mobile POS to take your business outside your shop’s premises.
  • Use mobile loyalty solution to communicate events, sales or directions to your stores.

Now you might be asking: “Isn’t this is far too complicated for volunteers?” With LS Retail it is not. The whole system can be implemented, planned and controlled by the employees at head office. In the stores, staff members just need to go through some basic training - and then they will be up and running. To give one example: all merchandise sales at the 2004 Athens Olympics were done through LS Retail software. Through six weeks, hundreds of volunteers operated the POS with bare minimum training. Shop staff is the best weapon in the charity retailer’s arsenal. Combined with high street retail best practices and the technology to support them, I believe charity retail has a lot of space to improve. 

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Here’s what you need to know about tomorrow’s retail

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