Around half of charity retailers still not selling online

Research by the Charity Retail Association outlines benefits of online selling, including boosting prices for rare and collectable items and attracting global customers.

Joe Lepper | 27th Nov 18
Image shows shoppers with bags. Almost half of charity retailers are not selling online according to a new report.

Almost half of charity retailers are not selling online and are missing out on extra revenue and the chance to expand their customer base, according to a report.

The Charity Retail Association report found that just 55% of 138 charity retailers surveyed have an online selling operation.

Key reasons given among those not to embrace online retail are that other challenges are given higher priority, a lack of skills and a shortage of funding.

Uptake of online retail is particularly poor among smaller charities.

Among those operating between one to ten shops just 54% sell online, this rises to 70% among those operating between 101 and 300 stores. All charity retailers surveyed with more than 300 shops have an online sales operation.

A representative of one small charity, with less than ten shops, told the Association that: “We know there is profit but simply do not have capacity.”

Another small charity representative said: “We should be selling online but have no idea how to get started, how to allocate sales to specific shops, how to manage the fulfilment and whether we should employ specific staff to do it.”

However, the survey did find that 71% of those not yet selling online either intend to do so, or are considering it, over the next year.

Rare books commanding higher prices online

The benefits of selling online include higher revenues and expanding the customer base beyond the sphere of influence of the high street.

Among those who sell online 88 per cent said it allows them to gain the highest possible selling price for unusual and high-value items. Rare books, vintage items and antique collectables are among items fetching higher prices online.

A similar proportion (81%) said that the move to online sales had helped them to expand their market reach and grow their customer base. Two in three respondents currently sell to overseas customers.

The most popular third party online sales platform for charity retailers is eBay, which is used by 97%, while 31% use Amazon and 40% have their own online shop. Two in three use multiple websites to sell goods.

The survey also found that 89% of those selling online are expecting their online sales to grow over 2018/19, with larger charities the most optimistic.

“Some respondents with 21 or more shops further specified that they forecast their donated online sales to at least double in the next year,” states the report.