Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Wheelie Bins and Charity Shops - Clues to A Nation's Wealth

You wouldn't think of a wheelie bin as an indicator of economic performance, would you? How about considering the existence of charity shops as a key factor in an area's economy?

Well, in Rugby at least, they are.

I walked into the town centre with my children over the weekend and discovered two new charity shops. A town of around 70,000 inhabitants now has 2 British Heart Foundation shops plus one each representing Shelter, PDSA, Oxfam, Cancer Research, Scope, YMCA, Sue Ryder, Rugby Bareboards Trust, Warwickshire Air Ambulance, Myton Hospice and Age UK.

Add to that the 3 pawn-brokers, the half-dozen shops that accept pre-owned goods in part-exchange for credit notes or new purchases and the plethora of cut-price bargains in national chain stores catering to the minimum-waged and you get the picture of a retail shopping crisis. We are losing our independent retailers and with them, variety and personalised service. Those with credit and debit cards shop online or drive to out of town malls with free parking; those with cash and no car have fewer and fewer options.

As for wheelie bins - this time last year, there was outcry at the imposition of fortnightly bin collections. Overflowing bins were put on pavements, emphasising the need to return to a weekly routine. Now, the collections are still fortnightly, but the bins are no longer full, and not due to an evangelical approach to recycling. We are, as a town, just using less, which means we are buying less.

Apparently, according to figures released today by the IPPR, the only reason we're not officially in a recession is because our exports last quarter were greater than our imports. That's more because we're not buying as much from overseas, than because the exchange rate is working in our exporters' favour.

Charity shops are flourishing for a number of reasons, including reduced business rates and a lack of funding from other sources which means they have to rely on retail footfall and donations of goods.

In the meantime, there is no deterioration in Kleeneze orders - the range of goods and the personal service provided by Kleeneze distributors are filling a void that our customers are keen to let us fill. There's never been a better time to build a Kleeneze business.