New charity shop opens in Sheringham

A charity which has just enjoyed a record year has opened a new shop in a north Norfolk seaside town.

Shoppers packed the new British Heart Foundation (BHF) store which began trading in Sheringham's Church Street on Thursday.

BHF bosses say they hope the new branch will attract more people to the town and do not believe the arrival of another charity shop will detract from the high street scene or represent a threat to established retailers.

The shop, in the former Gazelle's women's fashion store premises, was officially opened by Sheringham Mayor Doug Smith who said it was a 'high-quality asset' to the town with the added spin-off that it was raising money for vital research to help fight heart disease.

Charity shops such as BHF are benefiting from the current economic downturn as pennywise shoppers turn their backs on full-priced goods and hunt for bargains, according to Debbie Dixon, regional manager with the charity.

However, because people are cutting back on spending, they have fewer items to give away and the charity is urgently appealing for more donations to keep it stocked.

Last year BHF's 640-plus shops nationwide raised over �22m, which represented another record year, Ms Dixon added.

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'We attract people from a wide demographic. We get people looking for Radley bags and other designer labels, and also people who need to buy from charity shops,' she said.

Charity shops attract criticism from some retailers because they benefit from an 80pc reduction in North Norfolk District Council's business rate, provided they sell entirely, or mainly, donated goods.

Complainants say many charity shops in fact sell a substantial number of new goods and therefore represent unfair competition.

But Ms Dixon said only five to six per cent of goods sold in BHF shops were new. While the charity had been attracted to Sheringham because of its vibrancy and the number of shoppers using the town, it hoped its new branch would help other traders by drawing even more people.

She added: 'There are a large number of charity-shop shoppers out there and many come looking for our shops because of their reputation for quality.'

* Donations can be taken to the Sheringham shop, which would also welcome more volunteers. Ring 01263 824860 for more information.

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