Charities have a happy Christmas

Charities cashed in as Christmas shoppers shunned the larger stores.

Early indications were that the spending gloom that descended on the high streets before Christmas did not spread to the voluntary sector, where demand for charity merchandise was holding up.

Although final figures will not be available until the new year, many charities are confident.Macmillan Cancer Support changed its tactics this year to forestall any repeat of last year’s late start to the Christmas selling period.

A spokesperson said: “The new range was launched via a new-look catalogue and online shop in August and momentum built to a peak in late November and into early December.

“Early signs are that we have increased turnover year on year. Although we have a loyal base of customers who prefer to buy their goods offline, traffic to our online shop has also increased over the past 12 months and this has really helped extend the selling season.”

Crisis, which is running eight accommodation centres in London for about 2,000 homeless people beween 23 and 30 December, set its targets high this year – and met them.

Ed Tait, Crisis’s direct marketing manager, said a media push, including newspaper inserts and advertising, had resulted in donations rising above the £1m mark, 20% up on last year.

He said: “We are in more wary times but people are still sympathetic towards homeless people.”

Moreover, the response from volunteers to run the centres was exceptional. Crisis needs about 7,000 volunteers to do at least two shifts each over the week and the response was “amazing, the best yet”, said a spokesperson.

The retail arm of housing charity Shelter was also positive about sales, particularly Christmas cards, while the organisation’s tie-up with food and clothing chain M&S was helped by celebrity endorsement from TV presenter Amanda Lamb and Radio 5 Live presenter Richard Bacon.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “With money donated to Shelter every time someone buys a specially-labelled Food to Go item in store, the partnership has already raised more than £1m over the past three years for Shelter across the UK – enough money to help 10,000 families – and we are hoping that we increase this £1.5m this year.”

Learning disability charity Mencap was similarly optimistic. Vanessa Longley, head of fundraising, said: “Among the best-sellers have been the Christmas cards designed by people with a learning disability and a 2008 calendar, which contains winning pictures and stories from Snap!, Mencap’s annual photographic competition.

“People respond well to products that are related to what we do as a charity.”

Christmas card sales also proved rewarding for disability charity Scope. John Taylor, head of trading, said: “We have enjoyed a 12% increase on last year on Christmas cards bought in our shops and have also seen a rise in the amount of goods donated straight to our charity shops since last year.”

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