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Charity shops across the country reopened on June 15 alongside other non-essential retailers. But for dedicated bargain hunters and enthusiastic eco-warriors, donating and shopping in them is likely to feel quite different.
For starters, it’ll take more planning, as your nearest store might remain closed – even though the government has given shops the green light.
Back in May, the British Heart Foundation told HuffPost UK it planned to open “a small number” of shops from mid-June. Shelter set out similar plans. Meanwhile Barnardo’s said it would open 70 shops in England from June 15, as part of a phased reopening of all branches.
Wherever you usually do your charity shopping, it’s likely to be different to what it was before the pandemic, says Robert Fisk, a spokesperson from Barnardo’s. “The customer’s shopping experience will be similar to the one they are now used to in grocery stores,” he tells HuffPost UK.
Expect to stay two metres apart from fellow customers and staff at all times and, if there’s an influx of customers, you’ll need to queue outside before you go in.
Charity shop browsing often includes more riffling and rummaging than regular clothes shopping – particularly in those bargain buckets where the best treasures seem to be hidden.
You might instinctively feel less inclined to caress the stock anyway, but to limit the risk of touching contaminated items, Barnardo’s and other stores will be providing hand sanitiser for customers to use as they enter the shop.
Donations at Barnardo’s, Oxfam and other chains will also be quarantined in a secure storage area for 72 hours.
“Each item will be date stamped so we know exactly when it came into the shop,” Fisk explains. “After the 72 hours quarantine period is over, the goods will be put out on the shop floor.”
You’ll still be able to donate to shops in the same way – via the shop itself or a local donation bank – but most chains are asking customers not to leave donations outside on the street.
“As people may have spent lockdown doing a little tidying and sorting around the house, we are expecting an influx of donations when we return,” says Fisk. “To help manage this we are advising our customers to call their local store before taking any donations to ensure the shop is able to take the items.”
The changing rooms will be closed in all Barnardo’s stores for the foreseeable future and this is a measure other chains and non-charity retailers are considering.
The staff and volunteers you encounter on your charity shop visit may also look different. Both Barnardo’s and Oxfam confirmed they are supplying teams with personal protective equipment, including gloves and aprons. Barnardo’s added that staff will be welcomed to wear face coverings.
If you’re a regular visitor to a local charity shop, you may sadly notice some of the usual friendly faces behind the counter are missing. Oxfam said the majority of its volunteers are elderly and vulnerable, so won’t be able to return to shops while shielding is in place. “We are acutely conscious of our responsibilities towards them,” a spokesperson said.
Despite the changes, charity shops are expecting to see a surge in donations. So once you’ve settled into this new way of browsing, you’re sure to find some low-cost gems.