A local weekly newspaper in its review of the year used the phrase “High Street in crisis”. Nairn High Street certainly took a few knocks in 2013. One element of the local retail economy that remains strong however is the Charity Shop sector. A report by the think tank Demos states that there are now 900 charity shops in Scotland, raising £26 million for charity annually.
Some people see the presence of charity shops in the High Street as evidence of a spiral of decline but that analysis will have to be revisited according to Demos:
“Because of their increasing presence on the high street, as well as the social and economic benefits they provide, charity shops should be a key voice in the regeneration debate. Dramatic changes to the retail sector brought about through the internet and technology mean we can never return to the high streets of old. Instead, local authorities need to envisage a new role and function for local high streets, which includes a more creative mixture of housing, education, arts, retail and, importantly, services.”
The report is a fascinating (but long) read which this observer is still browsing, it details the economic benefits of these shops; the massive volume of goods that are reused/recycled rather than going to landfill; the social and health benefits of volunteering to work in the shops etc, etc. Maybe Nairn could do with more charity shops to fill the empty premises on the High Street? All food for thought perhaps for the Highland Council/NICE town centre charrette that we will hear more about very soon?
The report states the considerable benefits but is possible to hear negative comment towards charity shops, particularly grumbles about the pricing of some articles in charity shops: some feel that they are still good value but others have a wide range of complaints about the shops which for some includes their displeasure at the perceived large salaries that are given to the high heid yins of some charities. A recent Guardian article had the headline: “'Greedy' charity shops under fire for prices beyond means of poor” and can be read here.
Nairn High Street may be in crisis but as we move into the first few days of 2014 the Charity Shops are still with us and, love them or loathe them, they will obviously remain a permanent fixture on our High Street.