Traders back MP’s charity shops plea

Charity shops in Lytham
Charity shops in Lytham

Trading chiefs have backed an MP’s calls to limit the amount of charity shops on the high streets of towns.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies sparked a huge debate when he said there are “too many” charity shops and their numbers were increasing, with high streets suffering as a result.

He recognised the value of charity shops but added: “The problem is that we are not even allowing retail businesses to attempt to attract customers or to try to make a profit, in fact we are denying them from opening in the first place.”

He urged the reduction of mandatory rate relief for charity shops from 80 per cent to 50 per cent and more effective monitoring and enforcement on the restrictions of the sale of new goods in charity shops.

St Annes Chamber of Trade chairman Mr Moxham applauded Mr Menzies for what he termed ‘his bravery’ in putting the topic in the spotlight but felt his suggestions to improve the situation didn’t go far enough.

“For me, the rate relief currently at 80 per cent should be abolished altogether, possibly in stages with 50 per centre as a first step,” said Mr Moxham.

“The rate relief idea dates back to when charity shops were much smaller operations than they are now – many these days are effectively large businesses.

“I would also stop them selling new goods. Towns such as ours have reached saturation point and something needs to be done to level the playing field.”

Denize Ashton, chairman of the Lytham Business Partnership, said: “The Partnership wholeheartedly welcomes Mr Menzies’ comments and any debate they have provoked.

“Lytham traders. particularly the small independent ones, are feeling forced out of the high street.

“Not only have they weathered the recession, the boom in online shopping and other frustrations, some are beginning to question why should they bother to fight for their place?

“They have been supportive to charity shops, but where does it end, when some charities are opening a second branch in the same town and an increasing trend of them selling new items of the type that some of the shops already stock?”

Steve Grundy, chairman of Kirkham and Wesham Business Group, said: “A major frustration is that charity shops often take prime locations. I can see why that happens, as it is assured rent for a landlord and with the 80 per cent rate relief and the shops staffed by mainly volunteers, the charities are able to afford higher rents.”

Many online posters agreed with Mr Menzies but others said it was his own Government’s austerity cuts that were making people use charity shops in the first place.