Death to charity shops…

Forgive the OTT headline but such are my tabloid depths.

I don’t actually want to get rid of charity shops.


In an article on here by MurdockP it was highlighted how many there are on the Northern Irish high street as was their current rate-free status.

From the outset this is no bad thing: empty shops, not being used and someone somewhere is benefiting from their kind deeds.

So what’s the downside to this?

Well, let us examine the bigger picture:

Charity shops do not pay rates and in many cases they don’t pay staff (kind-hearted volunteers make up the staffing ranks).

So what of ‘retired teacher Harry McErlain’ who wants to open up a second-hand bookshop in the town? He would be paying rates and perhaps a staff member or two (part-time or otherwise)?

But Harry can’t set up a second-hand book shop. Most of the easily accessible books go straight to charity shops, in many cases driven by charitable feelings and in some cases by convenience.

“Well he should pay more for books!” I hear you cry. Well yes, he probably should, or more correctly probably ‘would’ were it not for the financial pressures unfairly exerted on small business owners in Northern Ireland, chiefly through extortionate rates.

Same for those who wish to enter the second-hand clothing line, difficult to compete with the charity shops. And records.

Is it unfair to assume that if charity shops had to pay business rates then this could (in theory) be used to take the rates burden off of other businesses? If not unfair then this would potentially encourage more businesses to open and subsequently lead to more jobs.

Same with business rent. If X amount of charity shops have to close due to the new rates situation, then for a while this will lead to a devaluing of rental prices on the high street which in turn could lead to an uptake of more small businesses (eventually).

Yes, some charities will lose out and no doubt some of the bigger ones will probably take up some of the slack, however, it’s difficult to see how this would not be to the benefit of the second-hand business community and therefore of benefit to the economy and jobs market, not just those who want to have a stab at running their own wee place.

(And, just so you know, one of my many plans is for a small charity shop for a very local cause, it too would obviously be affected, but, for the greater good and all that jazz)

Photo by Prudence Earl is licensed under CC0

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