Charity shops are expecting a large volume of donations when they reopen and plan to isolate items for 72 hours before they go on sale as part of measures to ensure the safety of customers.
The Government said charity shops are among retailers that can resume trading from June 15, but at least one charity is saying it will only commit to reopening once it is “safe to do so”.
Charities are asking people who have spent time de-cluttering their homes during lockdown not to leave donations outside shops and to be “thoughtful” about when they donate.
The Government is also being urged to give more “definitive” guidelines regarding how long items should be left before being put out on sale.
The charity said in a statement: “Our priority remains the health and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and customers.
“Many of our volunteers are elderly and vulnerable and we are acutely conscious of our responsibilities towards them.
“We are following government advice and are taking comprehensive steps to create a safe environment, including ensuring social distancing within the shops, providing personal protective equipment, regular cleaning of all surfaces, doors and equipment, and the isolation of donated items for 72 hours prior to listing for sale.
“We welcome the fact that many people are taking the opportunity to de-clutter during lockdown and we are asking people to hold on to those items for now and donate them to Oxfam when the shops and donation banks are open again.”
The charity, which supports vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people in Romania, said: “We are at present carrying out comprehensive risk assessments on all our locations and when each location will open will depend on whether it can meet the current safety guidelines laid down by the Government.
“We do expect a large volume of donations when the shops reopen and will be setting aside space in our warehouse and shops to deal with those donations and will be communicating with our regular donors in advance about the matter and hoping they will be thoughtful about when they donate.
“Clearly the handling of donated goods by our staff, volunteers and customers presents a particular concern and we are looking at a range of measures to reduce the risk of handling donations.
“This includes quarantining donations for 72 hours from the time they are donated, implementing an even more thorough cleaning regime in our shops, steam-cleaning all clothing thoroughly, offering hand sanitiser to all visitors on entrance to our stores, asking customers not to touch items while in store unless they are ready to buy, closing our dressing rooms for use for a period of time, to name but a few.”
Traid (Textile Reuse and International Development) is planning a phased reopening of its charity shops around June 18, beginning with the most spacious stores in Dalston, Kilburn, Peckham and Shepherd’s Bush.
“However, Traid is keen for something more definitive from the Government regarding how long clothes and textile donations should be left before putting on sale.”
Barnardo’s said it will be opening 70 of its shops in England from June 15 as part of a phased reopening plan and will have a range of safety measures in place.
The charity is advising customers to call their local store before dropping off items as they expect “an influx” of donations.
Shelter said it will begin gradually reopening stores from mid-June with safety measures including quarantining all stock for 72 hours before it reaches the shop floor.
The British Heart Foundation said “a small number” of its shops will reopen from mid-June with measures in place including “social distancing measures, protective equipment for staff and volunteers and the safe collection and processing of donated items”.
The charity’s retail director, Allison Swaine-Hughes, said: “Once these new ways of working are established, we will continue to reopen our 750 nationwide shops and stores over the following weeks.”
A spokeswoman for the Charity Retail Association said: “Welcoming staff, volunteers and customers back will be a pleasure after the last few weeks.
“Our members will be delighted to accept donations, as we know people have been using the time to clear out their houses.
“We would like to kindly remind people to be mindful about what they are donating, and check with the charity shop before dropping them off.
“In line with Government guidelines, we are recommending that donated items and customer returns are stored for 72 hours or cleaned before being displayed on the shop floor.”