Lee Fellows, Managing Director of The Charity Shop Gift Card, explains what it is, how it works and how charities can benefit from it.
What is the Charity Shop Gift Card and how does it work?
In its most basic form, The Charity Shop Gift Card is a “multi-retail” gift card that can be spent at participating charity stores. It brings together retail charities to gain meaningful access to the UK’s £7 billion gift card market. We market the cards to consumers who want to shop more sustainably and have made the card available online through our website and third-party websites, through participating charity retailers, through incentive companies that provide gift cards for consumer and employee rewards and incentives, and through gift card shopping malls – the large racks of gift cards in supermarkets and other large retailers.
We also work directly with councils, charities and other support agencies who provide financial support to people in difficulty, as the gift card offers a more sustainable way to deliver funds, helping the circular economy, reducing landfills and generating revenue for participating charities. .
How did you come up with the idea?
I can’t take credit for the idea as it came up independently to two different people; Sarah Cox, our Support Manager, is trained as a teacher in a Bristol city center neighborhood and has witnessed some of the challenges families can face in ensuring their children wear appropriate clothing. She has always been an avid charity shopper, but that passion took on a new lease of life when circumstances made donated items a necessity rather than a choice.
After rebuilding her life and the lives of her children, Cox wanted to find a solution that would allow people in financial difficulty to shop ‘for free’ at charity shops so they could choose the items they needed with dignity and autonomy. She strongly believed that a charity gift card that could be made available to welfare councils, food banks and other support organizations was the answer.
Lottie Bradley also had a hand. She has worked in charity retail for over five years and is currently Head of Retail Design for Save the Children. She saw a gap in the market for an eco-gift solution that could unite high street charity shops and champion circular fashion.
After an introduction by Robin Osterley, CEO of our partner, The Charity Retail Association, the two complementary ideas helped shape what became The Charity Shop Gift Card. What I was able to do was use my industry experience working for a large global gift card issuer to help bring the idea to fruition.
What are the benefits for charities?
Ultimately, it’s about generating additional revenue. While some charities have already launched their own gift card programs, The Charity Shop Gift Card is uniquely positioned to capture market share with consumers who currently purchase and receive retail gift cards for many other high street stores due to lack of options available.
Above all, our gift card provides an efficient, low-administrative way to work with councils, charities and support agencies that provide financial support to people in financial difficulty. Again, charities are already working with the councils, but The Charity Shop gift card
quickly expand this opportunity which eliminates some of the known issues of lack of choice and manual administration. We also expect the gift card to introduce new people to charity shopping, which will lead to a long-term supportive relationship.
Our gift card also offers a new way to engage individuals and businesses in a new way. For charities and social enterprises that choose to use the card as a way to disburse funds to their service users, The Charity Shop Gift Card ensures that those funds stay in the charitable sector, helping not only the recipient , but also the charity where the funds are spent. . As charity stores typically sell essential items, using the gift card reduces the risk of funds being misspent and helps reduce the number of items going to landfill.
Being a social enterprise adds another layer of giving, with 65% of our surplus going to fund free gift cards to people in need, with those funds flowing back to participating charities as they are spent.
What has been the response so far?
We were surprised by the positive reaction to the gift card and goodwill. The most common reaction is “how does this not already exist” which is always a good indicator that you are onto a good thing! We’re really happy with the charity uptake so far and that’s critical because the program only works if there are lots of charity shops that are part of the program to make it work for consumers, councils and support agencies.
Over 600 stores are accepting the card today, including national chains such as Marie Curie, YMCA and The Children’s Society, and we expect over 2,000 stores to be involved before card sales peak- gifts only arrive in November and December.
We also receive positive feedback from incentive companies telling us that their customers are looking for more sustainable gift options, which charity purchases certainly are.
Is it easy for associations to be created and how do they go about it?
Our gift card is processed through compatible EPOS systems and we have had fantastic support from most EPOS vendors who work with charity shops, so for most charities there is very little to do to get started.
It’s simple for cardholders and stores to use, so much so that we’ve had less than ten calls to our customer service team looking for help since our launch last year. We provide cards to our charity partners with everything they need to get started, but we ask them to help raise awareness of the program, which is essential. Charities wishing to join the program and using a compatible checkout system can be up and running in days, so it’s really simple.
Interested charities can contact the team via their website or by emailing [email protected]