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Worcester fourth in list for charity shops in the UK
A NEW report has revealed that Worcester has more charity shops than almost any other British city.
This proliferation is particularly obvious in Mealcheapen Street, pictured above, which alone has eight. How does this growing retail sector affect shopping here?
MORE charity shops fill the streets of Worcester city centre than almost anywhere else in the country, a new report has revealed.
Worcester is fourth in the list of UK shopping locations with 21 charity shops – behind Blackpool, Brighton and London, which comes top with 83 – according to research by the Local Data Company (LDC), which monitors trends across the country’s high streets.
The research has prompted a debate over whether charity shops are good or bad for a city or town centre.
Keith Marshall-Walker, who owns and runs the Paintbox Gallery in Mealcheapen Street, which has eight charity shops along its short strip, says the outlets have a negative effect on both trade and the reputation of a city.
He said it had driven away customers to the point he was forced to diversify to try to stay afloat.
“It definitely detracts from the economy of an area,” he said.
“It attracts bargain hunters – they are looking to get their hands on something cheap and are not looking to buy quality stuff.”
He said he believes there should be limits on how many charity stores can be in a single street.
“They need to spread out more, rather than collect all together in one place,” he said.
His concerns echo those of leading retail experts, who have warned that too many charity shops damages the public perception of some towns and cities and argue it drives shoppers away from already struggling high streets.
The LDC’s report found the number of charity shops has rocketed by almost a third over the past five years across the UK, with charities cashing in on the increase in demand for bargains as shoppers struggle through the recession.
Dan Corns, commercial director of Worcester-based St Richard’s Hospice, which has five shops in Worcester, said while he understood the concerns of other traders, charity shops meet a demand.
“If you take all the charity shops away, will there be new businesses flooding in to replace them, or will you just have even more empty shopfronts?” he said.
“If there was huge demand for shop space and there were a lot of charity shops, then we might have a case to answer.
“But as it is, there are about 35 empty shops in Worcester.”
The charity is set to rake in up to £700,000 this year from its chain of stores, he added.
A report on the rise of charity shops is being prepared for the Government by a group of businessmen, including Paul Turner-Mitchell, of Rochdale.
He said: “The proliferation of charity shops is distorting the playing field for retailers, damaging public perception of many towns and taking away millions of pounds in business rates.”
WHAT THEY SAY: WORCESTER BID
A GOOD mix of outlets, including charity shops, is vital to the city, according to Adrian Field, the manager of Worcester Business Improvement District (BID).
The growing number of stores would also not have an effect on the planned development of the Cornmarket, announced this week, he said.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a big factor when they [high-end stores] look at coming into Worcester,” he said.
“It’s about the fact that companies such as Jack Wills and others have come into Worcester recently – they’ll
look at what their competitors are doing.”
Charity shops were attractive to areas such as Worcester, which has a large elderly and student population, he said.
“I think we have a good balance – 21 shops out of more than 1,000 in the city centre is not bad,” he said.
“One of the main reasons we have so many charity shops is because we have such a well-supported organisation in St Richard’s Hospice which has five shops itself.”
However, he said the shops would need to adapt to cope with the threat posed by the internet.
“A lot of businesses are doing click and collect these days but charities might not have the resources to do that,” he said.
WHAT THEY SAY: CHARITY SHOPS
CHARITY shops could soon be a thing of the past as cheaper clothing and digital downloads encroach further on the secondhand market, commercial director of St Richard’s Hospice Dan Corns has warned.
“People seem to prefer to buy cheap clothes which they can wear once and throw away – and these have no second-hand value,” he said.
“People are downloading more and more – and this means if they get tired of it or don’t have room for it any more, they just delete it, whereas before they might pass them on to us.
“And how long do books have left, with things such as the Kindle growing in popularity?”
The charity, which has five stores in Worcester and 18 in total, was set to bring in about £700,000 of revenue from the shops, he said.
As well as the stores in Worcester, St Richard’s Hospice shops can be found in Pershore, Barnards Green in Malvern, Great Malvern, Droitwich, Malvern Link, Broadway, Stourport, Evesham and Tewkesbury.
The charity recently opened a new shop in Upton-upon-Severn.
Revenue from the charity’s outlets has grown from £275,000 in 2002, to the estimated £700,000 this year, a rise of about 40 per cent.
WHAT THEY SAY: THE COUNCIL
ADRIAN Gregson, the leader of Worcester City Council, is confident the city’s high number of charity shops will not affect plans for the new big-name shopping development at the Cornmarket car park.
“It is important that we are an ambitious community and work to re-affirm the status of Worcester as an important sub-regional shopping centre,” he said.
“We are determined to attract the big names to Worcester and we’re confident this will increase the attraction to other retailers, developers and visitors.
“Charity shops provide a worthwhile source of income for these charities as well as shopfronts that might otherwise be empty.”
He said he believed it was important to work to improve the city’s economy as a whole in the wake of the recession.
“Just because there are charity shops does not mean the city is rundown or is not attractive to retailers,” he said.
“The answer is to attract big names to get the visitor market going. I think there’s room for both.”
Earlier this week, Councillor Geoff Williams, city council cabinet member for economic prosperity, said the new developments would help the entire city.
“The whole of Worcester’s economy will benefit from this bold approach, as it will bring more visitors to shop and spend time in our city,” he said.
The council is also spending £700,000 on a High Street revamp.
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