Hunts retailer slams charity shops

THE influx of charity shops to St Ives could kill off the town as a shopping centre within the next 10 years, a retailer has claimed. Richard Walters, who owns the health club (and toy shop) Time for Health, in Station Road, said charities have an unfair

THE influx of charity shops to St Ives could kill off the town as a shopping centre within the next 10 years, a retailer has claimed.

Richard Walters, who owns the health club (and toy shop) Time for Health, in Station Road, said charities have an unfair playing field and are going head-to-head with retailers by selling new goods.

He added that one of the town's eight charity shops sold the same brand traditional toys as he did, but could do so at a lower price.

Others, he said, also sold new jewellery, books, sweets and clothes.


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He believes St Ives has too many charity shops - British Heart Foundation, Oxfam, Kidney Research, YMCA, RSPCA, Barnado's, Wood Green Animal Shelters and Help the Aged - for its 16,000 population.

"These charity shops now dominate the retail environment with many selling new goods in direct aggressive competition with real retailers," he said. "They provide unfair competition because they pay only 20 per cent of business rates, they are VAT exempt for some goods, they use volunteers and they do not pay for refuse collection."

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He also disputes how much they help good causes.

"In 2007, according to the association of charity shops, only 20 per cent of the turnover went to good causes and up to 80 per cent on running costs."

Mr Walters and his wife, Jane McDonald, an architect, have launched an awareness campaign and have written to Jonathan Djanogly, MP for Huntingdon looking for his support.

The letter signed by them both says: "We believe if this process is allowed to continue, the value of our houses will fall because who wants to live in a town dominated by charity shops?

"We will have to pay higher rates because of the loss of business rates and parking fees. There will be higher carbon emissions because people will have to shop more out of town.

"We believe this situation is occurring in market towns all over the UK."

Jane Bowd, the town centre manager for St Ives, said: "There is a balance to be struck between the benefits of charity shops and the vitality of our town centre. Our first loyalty must be to our mainstream businesses which do not benefit from 80 per cent reduction in business rates."

John Davies, chairman of the St Neots Town Centre Initiative, said: "We did a survey and found St Neots had 150 ground floor retail units of which half are retail and half were other, including banks, estate agents and opticians. Our perception was that every other shop was a charity shop but when you count them St Neots only has six charity shops.

"It is all about offering choice and charity shops do this. The charity shops also have a role as without them we would probably see more empty shop windows."

Katy Sismore, town centre manager for Huntingdon, said there are at least five charity shops: "My first choice would be a mixture of shops because some charity shops will bring people into the town. We are about to publicise a survey next month asking people why they come into the town and why they don't and what the niggles are. This will also cover the number and types of businesses and the amount of car parking."

CHARITY SHOP RULES:

Charity shops get:

Exemption from corporation tax on profits

Zero VAT rating on the sale of donated goods

80 per cent business rates relief (and councils have the discretion to grant charity shops a further 20 per cent relief on business rates)

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