Almost a hundred St Vincent de Paul (SVP) charity shops reopened this week, after 12 weeks of closure led to losses estimated up to a quarter of their yearly take.
“Our shops are essential [to SVP’s service],” said Dermot McGilloway, SVP national retail development manager, speaking to The Irish Catholic.
“There is a fundraising element to it – SVP shops contributed €8 million last year,” he continued. “We’ve been closed now for 12 weeks, you’re talking about three months trading. If you take a quarter of our annual income, that’s several million we’re going to be down.
“Even when we open, it’s going to be on a part-time basis. Shops won’t start trading until 10.30am, in line with Government regulations, and will close early. It’s been such a traumatic few months for volunteers and managers that some shops simply won’t return.”
Mr McGilloway added that, while the economic losses were hard, it was the “intangible element” of community service that made the closures especially difficult.
“As well as a fundraising element, our shops are a gateway to SVP and provide a recreational hub as well,” he said. “For an awful lot of people, it’s not about coming in and spending money, it’s about reaching out to other people and reengaging with the community.
“Whilst we judge success of our shops up to point on economic contributions, there’s an intangible element which you can’t put a price on and that’s where we’re really suffering.”
Mr McGilloway expected there to be a “hunger” for charity shops now that they reopened.
“I do expect people to have a hunger for good brands at low prices,” he said, “but it’s really that community engagement, which the country has been denied for the last 12 weeks, that people are really crying out for.
“When customers come in, it’s grand if people want to come in for an hour to chat to volunteers or have a browse.
“All we’re doing is taking the resources of the local community and we’re putting them at the disposal of that community,” he said.