Charity shops are feeling the pinch

By Robyn Rosen, September 17, 2009

Educational charity Ort has closed its only fundraising store as reduced donations, high rents and cash-strapped customers have taken their toll on Jewish charity shops.

Ort’s Finchley shop was shut down because of rising rent. “It was never really making that much money,” explained British Ort chairman Simon Alberga.

“We had a disagreement with the landlord over what the rent should be and have been planning the closure since then. In the current environment, it’s not the best time to relocate.”

Other charity retailers are also feeling the pinch. At the Jewish Association for the Mentally Ill’s store in Golders Green, assistant manager Max Minkoff reported “very difficult” trading conditions. “We get less donations. If people have something worthwhile, they will sell it on eBay rather than take it into a charity shop.

“This shop is essential. It can’t close down because it not only raises money but provides work for some of the sufferers we care for. They come in regularly to help out.”

Welfare charity the Manchester Jewish Federation runs two shops and fundraising manager Rochelle Broman said they were struggling to compete with sales and discounts being promoted elsewhere.

“Other shops have sales the whole time now and shoppers are also holding on to their clothes longer so it’s affecting donations too.”

Beth Dove, an assistant at the Golders Green branch of All Aboard, which distributes proceeds to other Jewish charities, also reported a dramatic fall in donated goods.

“People go to Primark now and have stopped buying expensive items and so the quality of items we are donated is just not good.

“We’ve had to lower the cost of our items to compete. We’re making less money — it’s fallen by about 10 per cent.”

Browsing the shelves at the Norwood shop in Golders Green — which receives regular donations from leading high street retailers — Maryanne Sebag said she looked in at least once a week. “I buy a lot of things to give as presents like ornaments and antiques. They’ve always got unusual and innovative items.

“But recently they haven’t had enough donations and it’s getting harder to find good things. The shop used to have tremendous choice.”

On a positive note, All Aboard retail management executive Jack Cohen pointed out: “We’ve even opened some new shops in the past two years. We’ve found the community have been extremely supportive.

“Now more than ever, it’s important to support Jewish charities who are struggling.”

Last updated: 3:32pm, January 5 2011