Created on: February 20, 2013
The central shopping streets of British towns and cities have been having a hard time in recent years. Many shops, both large and small, have closed their doors in the face of competition from out-of-town shopping centres, central undercover malls, and the Internet with its myriad opportunities for people to shop from home.
As retail premises have become vacant, many of them have been snapped up by national and local charities which have taken advantage of the opportunity to trade donated goods for much-needed funds. Many High Streets, especially in smaller towns, now seem to have more charity shops in them than any other kind of business premise, and the growth trend seems set to continue.
Charities have certain advantages that ordinary retailers do not have. For one thing, all the stock they offer for sale has been donated, so the prices they charge their customers can undercut those of their commercial competitors. Added to that, they do not have to levy VAT (value added tax) on their sales. They are staffed mainly by volunteers, so there are few salaries to be paid (the shop manager is often a paid employee, but is likely to be the only one). Although charity shops must pay rent to the landlord of the property, they will get relief from most, if not all, of the business rates that they would otherwise have to pay.
One of the categories of business enterprise that has almost disappeared from town centres is the second-hand bookshop. Well-established concerns that had been going for generations have found that they can no longer make a profit in times of rising costs and falling sales. They have fallen victim to Internet sales and to national chains such as “Works” that sell nearly-new remaindered stock at second-hand prices. The Internet has dealt them a double whammy by killing off the book-reading and book-buying habit that once sustained the second-hand book trade. Many people prefer to read books on a Kindle than in hard copy.
So where does the dedicated book buyer (there are still a few left!) go when the urge takes him or her to browse for a bargain? Increasingly, the answer is the charity shop.
The general stock-in-trade of most charity shops is clothing, but most also have at least a few shelves of books in them, usually tucked away towards the back of the shop. There are even some charities, such as Age UK and Oxfam, that have set up complete second-hand bookshops of their own.
So what are the advantages of visiting charity shops when
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