TRADERS in Scarborough are calling for action after finding themselves being undercut by charity shops.
Concerns have been raised about the increasing number of new items being sold by what were traditionally second-hand shops.
Scarborough’s retail sector has voiced its worries about the “unfairness” of having to compete with charity shops which get “significant” business rate relief and voluntary staff.
The issue was raised at a recent meeting between the Scarborough Chamber of Trade and MP Robert Goodwill.
Victoria Clark, vice-chairman of the chamber, who runs Bespoke Country in Bar Street, said: “Customers have been coming in our shop and pointing out items we are selling at recommended retail price which they have seen cheaper in charity shops.
“We don’t know what the law or local policy is regarding this, however it is a problem for us.
“They could be well within their rights and we may be speaking out of turn, but we would like it looking into.
“We don’t have any gripes about charity shops, it’s just when they have huge rate relief, have key locations on the high street, and have staff they don’t have to pay for it doesn’t seem fair they get this extra bite at the cherry when we are all fighting to survive.”
Mrs Clark says she had got the same feedback from other shops too.
The chamber’s chairman Chris Golder, manager of Boyes, added: “We are all for charity shops, that’s not the issue. However if they are selling new stock at cheaper prices because of their rate relief it is a bit unfair on other traders trying to do business without such reliefs.”
Mr Goodwill said he will contact Scarborough Council on behalf of the chamber to see if they are aware of the situation, and to find out how charity shop stock is monitored.
The council revealed charity shops get an 80 per cent relief on their business rates, but was unable to comment about the amount of new stock they can legal sell.
A spokesman said: “There is no actual monitoring of charity shop stock but if a complaint was made against a particular shop then an investigation would be carried out.”
Charity shops have hit back saying they rely on the relief and help of volunteers to raise money for their “vital” charitable work.
Mike Lucas, retail director of the British Heart Foundation which has shop in Newborough and a furniture store in Aberdeen Walk, said: “Last year British Heart Foundation shops raised more than £26 million to help fight heart disease – the UK’s biggest killer.
“It is imperative that we receive discounted rates to carry on our life saving work in the area.
“We are extremely proud of the high standard of our Shops. But, like other retailers in the area, we do have to compete for trade to help us continue our life saving work.
“Our new goods range helps us offer the complete shopping experience for our customers and all profits from these sales are invested in finding a cure for heart disease too.”
Jayne Edwards, retail area manager for disability charity Scope, said: “We are passionate about having a vibrant and diverse high street. We are not in competition with local small businesses, we are trying to raise money to support our work with disabled people and their families. The vast majority – around 90% - of goods sold in our shops are good-quality clothes that have been kindly donated by local residents.
“We are glad to hear that the chamber’s members are keen to support charity shops. Charity shops are the ultimate green destination for unwanted goods. Everything donated to a Scope shop is either sold for reuse or sold for recycling.”