Vertical Markets

Charity shop donation thefts

by Mark Rowe

Unwanted gifts of clothing and other stock donated by the public to charity shops that are left on the retailer’s doorstep outside of opening hours are at risk of theft and may not be protected by the law, says a retail loss prevention specialist. This follows a recent incident when police were notified of items that were taken from a charity shop doorway in Eccles without permission. Despite the police identifying who was responsible, no further action was taken. Pete Thomas of security consultancy Lodge Service says: “It’s a grey area. Until donated goods are physically handed over to the shop staff then they probably belong in law to the donor and not to the shop or may be considered to have been effectively abandoned.

“ It’s a big issue over the Christmas period with unwanted but often high-value gifts being donated. Charities encourage the public to bring donations into the shop for this reason. It also ensures items aren’t damaged. Carrier bags and loose items spilling over in the doorway are unsightly too: it damages the brand, which is an issue given the size and value of the sector.”

Members of the Charity Retail Association generate some £290m annually for their causes. The association’s 375 members between them operate about 7500 shops.
Theft from charity shops, as for other retailers, has become a problem. However, some estimates put theft from charity shops as high as 6 per cent of profits, says Pete Thomas, compared to an average of some 1.5 per cent for retailers generally.

To counter the threat of all types of theft, Lodge Service says that it supplies security audits and training for charities. ‘Mystery shoppers’ provide feedback on standards of security and detect any issues in-store and at the point of sale, to ensure payment is received and processed correctly for example. The security consultancy also organises loss prevention training workshops for shop managers and key volunteers to understand how losses occur and the trends and practices in retail crime. Over 500 staff attend the annual events which include tips on how to reduce vulnerability to theft and deal with a suspected shop theft incident. Visit

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