Tuesday, July 09, 2013

British No Heart Foundation

Before I begin let me make one thing very clear. This blog is not a criticism of the above charity. I applaud their effort and their fundraising for heart disease and I would not wish to disrespect their work.
Recently, The British Heart Foundation, has opened a brand new shop in North Finchley, a suburb of North London near my home. 
They had a shop already but this new store is huge in comparison and is selling refurbished, or recycled white goods. Great you may think? A nice second-hand fridge for a bargain price with proceeds going to charity has to be a good thing doesn't it? Well, the answer is yes, I guess, unless you are Ken Bowman & Son, an independent dealer in the same marketplace with the added bonus of machine repair. His store is a two minute walk from the new BHF shop. I doubt Garland Electronics are not impressed either as they are ever closer with Glotech Repairs, another white goods store, less than 100 yards away.

Do we really need another shop selling fridges and washing machines within a 500 yard radius.
This is sure to have a detrimental effect on these three local traders and however small that effect is, it is happening at a time when independent retailers are totally under the cosh. Increased business rates, increased rent, the parking restrictions driving customers towards retail parks and away from the high st, the threat from on-line retailers like Amazon, and the already dominant threat from Tesco stores which have popped up everywhere in my local area. 
The independents are paying for stock, paying rates, paying rent, paying employees and probably paying VAT.
The BHF shop get stock for nothing, pays reduced rates as it is a charity, reduced rent for the same reason, has numerous tax breaks and doesn't pay it's staff because they are largely volunteers. If the three others were to operate under those same conditions I think they would probably think it was licence to print money.
Is this new version of charity shops really in line with what the ethic, if there is such a thing, of what a charity shop should be? They are supposed to be single premises, filled with anything from cutlery to second-hand books, not shaping up to take on Argos.

In the two shopping areas that I use, North Finchley and Barnet High St, we are swamped with charity shops. We are not swamped with independent traders as many have all gone out of business because of the reasons I mentioned earlier. The Spires Shopping Centre has now turned into The Spires Eating Centre with a large portion of the outlets selling coffee and those that aren't are almost all major brands. Costa, Starbucks, Thomson, Waterstones, Waitrose, you get the picture.

The front shop that faces the High St, formerly WH Smith, has been taken over by a bunch of locals recycling books. People drop books off and pick some up but no obligation to drop before you pick. In the short time they have been open they have saved over 70,000 books from the pulper. Now whether that is Chaucer or Jade Goody, that has to be a good thing doesn't it? I dropped a big bag of books off there earlier and congratulated the gentlemen there on his crusade to save the written word and assured him of my return. As I walked past the nearby Cancer Research shop they had a rack of books out front with a "buy one, get one free" offer and I wondered if this was a recent introduction and a reaction to the free books available three shops down, just after the PDSA charity shop which also has books. Maybe the charity shops are feeling the pinch now. I wonder how they feel with that ill-fitting shoe on the other foot?

I think we should establish a charity shop for independent traders who have been put out of business in recent years. I think it would be a winner. We could call it The Independent Retailers Against Development (TIRADe). I was thinking more along the lines of "The Suffocating Independent With The Corporate Boot At His Throat" but it didn't really roll off the tongue.
They would be entitled to all of the perks that the big charities get. The shop could be manned by all the men and women who have been bankrupted, or made redundant, and they could fill the shelves with all the bankrupt stock.

As I said at the beginning I have no axe to grind with charity shops and all the good they do, especially independent ones like the North London Hospice, but we need to level the playing field here and re-evalaute the motives of these charities and the catastrophic long term effect they will have on High Streets all over the UK.






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