First shopping platform purpose-built for the needs of charities
We’re all too well aware of the dramatic effect that the pandemic and lockdown has had on the high street, and as we write we cannot rule out the threat of further disruption to trade.
The UK’s 11,000 charity shops have suffered from reduced footfall over the past 18 months, impacting sales as well as donations. But at the same time some innovative charities have been embracing new ways to provide services and engage with the public, using video conferencing, smartphone apps and websites in more creative ways.
One such charity that has seen the potential of digital is Age UK South Lakeland. With their administration partner Charitek CIC, they’ve built an e-commerce platform that enables any charity or CIC to sell literally anything online – recreating a positive charity shopping experience on the web.
“BuyCharity.com gives participating organisations the ability to tap into the charity shopping ‘feel good factor’ in the online shopping environment,” says Hugh Tomlinson, CEO of Age UK South Lakeland and Managing Director of Charitek CIC. And it couldn’t come at a better time.
The fortunes of charities through the pandemic paint a very mixed picture. Charities that are associated with ‘pandemic issues’ such as domestic abuse and mental health are currently high profile and on the Government’s funding radar. However thousands of others will feel they are facing lack of recognition and have a desperate need for additional funding to be able to carry out their good work.
In the Charity Retail Association’s 2018 report on online selling, some 55% of charities were selling online – and this figure will almost certainly have increased. Yet this means a huge percentage are still not benefiting from online sales. And it’s not due to limited options. From eBay and Amazon to Facebook and charities’ own websites, there’s plenty of choice. But Hugh Tomlinson believes that what is missing is the “charity” feel of the platforms and the control that goes with it. With the right platform open to them, more charities could and should turn to the web for additional revenues. He explains.
“Previously charity online shopping was either using the traditional trading platforms and competing with sole traders and companies where the “charity shopping” vibe was totally lost, or using an individual charity online shop often mixed and confused with the charities’ main activities.
“BuyCharity.com is not designed to replace charity shops or their online stores, but to complement them. Those charities with a high street presence will be able to market products to a different audience – which means finding new buyers, and potentially selling niche items such as brands and collectables at a higher price.
“Where charities have no physical shops but still gather physical donations, BuyCharity can become their shopfront and help them capitalise on sales in a more cost-effective way than most of the current online options available.”
One of the core objectives of the site has been to provide charities with a low-cost charity-focused platform that has the thought-out advantages they really need, from managing Gift Aid and VAT to the ability to accept donations. It even has an automatic upload function to eBay, so you can upload an item once and give it a presence in two online shop windows – perfect for charities already building relationships on eBay.
Phil Whiteley is Partnership Development Manager at Age UK South Lakeland. He believes charities have needed an online solution where they control what they sell and how much revenue they make, without having their products diluted by commercial retailers.
“BuyCharity.com will resonate with members of the public who want to support charitable activities or have a more sustainable approach to what they buy. It’s a trustworthy one stop site where they can browse products from fully accredited organisations that are all looking to generate much-needed funds to support the causes that they are passionate about.
“BuyCharity.com is not a competitive platform, so the more partners there are and the more items there are on offer, the more shoppers will visit the site – so everyone wins.”
BuyCharity.com has already passed its beta testing phase, and a range of charities have signed up and are already selling successfully. There’s a wide range of items for sale being added every day – from fashion and jewellery to electronics and antiques – alongside hundreds of registered buyers. You can get involved by contacting Phil Whiteley on email [email protected] or register to sell at https://buycharity.com/organisations/register