Our charity shops need your support now more than ever – James Jopling

Head of British Heart Foundation Scotland warns that research budgets face being halved in line with drop in income

James Jopling, Head of BHF Scotland at The British Heart Foundation reception in the Parliament Buildings, Edinburgh.

Our British Heart Foundation shops and customers power our life saving research. Every donation and purchase helps to fund vital work to help save and improve the lives of the 720,000 people in Scotland living with heart and circulatory diseases.

The closure of our stores across the UK in March as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, has been a huge blow – not only financially, but also to our committed staff, volunteers and customers whose support we value immensely. Like many charities, the pandemic is having a significant impact on our work. The lockdown has been costing the British Heart Foundation at least £10 million a month for the last three months, and while we expect things to improve, we anticipate our net income to drop by half this financial year. As the BHF is completely funded by the public, and most of this income is spent on funding medical research, we expect to make a similar cut to our research budget in this financial year.

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This is at a time when we are dedicated to supporting the hundreds of thousands of people affected by heart and circulatory diseases in Scotland, who may be more vulnerable to the virus. But now, following months of careful consideration and planning and taking into account Scottish Government guidance, we are getting ready to reopen our shops and welcome our customers back – and we want to reassure you of the steps we have taken to get to this stage.

Throughout the pandemic, our number one priority has been keeping our staff, volunteers and customers safe and this continues to be the case as we look to reopen.

Our eBay store and online shop are now open with new safety measures in place and we have already opened a small number of BHF shops in England, where lockdown restrictions have eased, ensuring that all necessary precautions are in place. Once these new ways of working are established, we will start to reopen our shops across Scotland on a phased basis from the middle of July.

We have made significant changes in store but also to our collection services, online operations and the ways we accept and collect donations. These new initiatives will continue to be reviewed as we go.

We have introduced a number of measures including Perspex screens at till points, limiting the number of people in each shop at any one time, enhanced cleaning, social distancing on the shop floor and resting donated items for 72 hours before they are put on sale. We will also be making it easier for people to donate safely with donation points by the entrance of every shop. Customers will also be encouraged to pay by card or contactless payment where possible.

The shopping experience of course will be a different one but one we hope will reassure our supporters and encourage them back to help us continue our vital research work. All of these measures, we hope, will demonstrate our commitment to do everything possible to ensure shopping with the BHF is safe.

We also understand some people are not yet ready to hit the high street but want to continue to support us. And that is why we have introduced our new free postal donation service for smaller items. It’s quick and easy and the perfect solution if your local BHF shop is not yet open and you have items you want to give. This can be used for everything from clothes and books to vintage toys and ornaments. We will then sell them online via our eBay store or at a BHF shop. Every item we sell helps fund research which is why we never take for granted a camera, record or video game that’s donated to us. Full details can be found on our webpage.

We also know many people have taken this extended period of time at home as an opportunity to have a clear out and declutter and have kept these items aside for us – which is so appreciated.

Once our shops in Scotland re-open, we will restart our home collection service for furniture, electrical and home items and will also collect clothes, books and other smaller items if you have five or more bags or boxes to donate. As collections resume, new safety procedures mean we will only be able to collect items from outside properties, with collection services booked online. For larger donations to our home stores, we are asking customers to please ring ahead so we know that they are coming and deliver any donated stock to the back of the store.

We are continuously monitoring Scottish Government advice and therefore these precautions may change in the coming weeks, so we’d advise all our customers to please keep checking our shops homepage for reopening dates. There is no doubt this has been a challenging time and there are still difficult times ahead. However, we are hugely grateful for the patience of our wonderful supporters.

Since we were founded in the 1960s, BHF research – funded entirely by the generosity of the public - has helped reduce deaths from heart and circulatory disease in this country by half. We cannot slow our progress now. Our shops and our staff are ready and looking forward to welcoming back our customers once again, as we all strive to beat heartbreak forever.

For more details on our shops and reopening dates, visit - https://www.bhf.org.uk/shop

James Jopling, Head of BHF Scotland

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