Friday, 8 May 2009

Oxfam suffers as donations fall

• Public donations have fallen by 12% so far this year
• Households buy fewer things and have less to donate

The charity Oxfam today revealed the full impact of the recession on its shops as it announced that donations have slumped by 12% this year.However, sales in its network of 714 shops remain strong – up 5% on last year – as the credit crunch also means demand for donated goods remains high.More than 80% of Oxfam's total income from its shops comes from donations of clothes, books, music, homeware and other goods.

But with fewer people moving house the charity has seen a huge drop in donations of household items. Donations of crockery, china, glass and curtains are down by 7% so far this year, while furniture donations have plummeted by 13%.Clothing donations would have been down by 8% had it not been for an extra 900,000 donations resulting from a collaboration with Marks & Spencer, which incentivises people to take in their unwanted M&S clothing.The fall in donations clearly demonstrates wider trends resulting from the credit crunch: families tighten their belts and buy less, which means they replace less and therefore have less to donate to charity shops.But the 12% fall in donations so far could mean 1.2m fewer items are available to sell this year, the charity warned.

Oxfam's director of trading, David McCullough, said: "The £20m profit made by our shops last year would be enough to fund all of Oxfam's work in DR Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia for a year. But we can't sell fresh air, and [the shops] of course rely on the generosity of the public for their stock."Without continued donations of everything from clothing to cookware, Oxfam shops could not continue to play such a key role in communities across the UK."Among the worst-hit areas for donations are North Yorkshire, north London, Nottinghamshire, Devon and Cornwall. Areas that are faring best include the West Midlands, Tyneside, Teesside and south Wales.Other leading charity shops said they were also feeling the pinch.

A spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK said: "We're in a similar situation. While we know, anecdotally, that footfall has increased, we are in desperate need of stock to sell. We have found that donations to our shops have dropped significantly."The British Heart Foundation, which has 580 shops selling clothing, books, DVDs, CDs, toys and bric-a-brac, and more than 60 BHF furniture and electrical stores, said it had experienced a similar slump in donations.

Rebecca Smithers, Consumer affairs correspondent

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