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Stop knocking the Orpington charity shop boom

PUBLISHED: 15:45 01 August 2013 | UPDATED: 15:53 01 August 2013

Jo Khalef, manager of the Maypole Project store in Orpington High Street.

Jo Khalef, manager of the Maypole Project store in Orpington High Street.

Archant

Charity shops have long been a staple of any suburban high street. But, as many big chains move to modern shopping centres and outlets, vacant stores are increasingly becoming occupied by the likes of Age UK, Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation.

Frank Levett, chairman of Orpington Business Forum, and Orpington MP Jo Johnson.Frank Levett, chairman of Orpington Business Forum, and Orpington MP Jo Johnson.

A fortnight ago Orpington High Street became the focus of national newspaper attention, with suggestions that the 12 charity shops in the street was a sign of its decline.

Local MP Jo Johnson has come out in defence of the shops, backed by the local business forum and customers.

The manager of The Maypole Project, Jo Khalef, said the spread of such stores should not be seen as a negative phenomenon and also pointed out there are 13, not 12, in Orpington High Street.

She said: “Our shop is a bit different and more like a boutique, which is why they probably didn’t count us.

Liza DanielsLiza Daniels

“Charity shops are more common now because a lot of the shops around here are closing, and the internet has played a big part in that.

“JD Sports has just closed down next to us, but things like coffee shops, hairdressers and charity shops will always flourish since you can’t get them online.”

The store, which is run by about eight volunteers a day, also offers work experience to teenagers. Jo struggles to see how her store could be of detriment to the high street.

She said: “We still pay the rent like everyone else, and the overheads are quite high. There’s always something different on the shelves here and that’s what people like.”

Here we ask three other key people for their views. Let us know yours by tweeting @bromleytimes or emailing joshua.fowler@archant.co.uk

Orpington MP Jo Johnson

“Orpington High Street is doing better than other high streets across the country, especially when you look at the vacant unit rate.

In Orpington it’s at 7 per cent, compared to the 15 per cent national average, so we’re massively below that.

Times are tough for high streets because the world is changing. People are shopping online and going more to out-of-town centres like Bluewater and the Nugent Centre.

The picture is looking up for Orpington and that’s why I have been frustrated by the recent negative press surrounding the charity shops.

They represent just 4 per cent of the high street stores and the recent articles completely fail to acknowledge the many exciting developments that promise to transform the town centre, including the new Odeon cinema complex, the opening of a gleaming new library and the redevelopment of the Orpington campus of Bromley College.

Charity shops do valuable work and raise funds for noble causes. By and large, they have an important role to play. That’s not to say we want a high street full of one type of store and fortunately we don’t have that in Orpington.”

Frank Levett of Orpington Business Forum

“While there are a number of charity shops, there are no more than in any other high street across the country.

Orpington probably has one of the best restaurant cultures in the southeast of London and will soon have a seven-screen cinema complex. I feel that people are neglecting the positives in the area.

Charity shop culture is quite focused these days. They are not just temporary anymore, they’re much more marketed and structured in their presentation.

The original culture can mean there might be a stigma, but these days it’s about recycling. It’s a green option.

Most of our units in the high street are occupied. The amount of charity shops along the street is certainly not abnormal.

The lack of big shops is down to the approval of the Nugent Shopping Centre. That used to be full of hardware stores and bus depots, but the council approved the development.

Why not leave the big brands to stay on the high street? These kinds of decision have driven people away from the high streets all over.”

Liza Daniels, shopper

“I’m in favour of charity shops for many reasons, but mainly because what they sell raises money for the charity they represent.

It’s also a good way of keeping premises open in the high street that might be empty otherwise. People are able to buy items that they might not have been able to afford orginally, or missed when they were in the shops.

I honestly can’t see any down side to them.

I shop in them myself, and they’re particularly good for things such as Christmas cards. It’s always great to pop in one and have a browse. They nearly always have costume jewellery.

I’m not sure how people can blame failing high streets on charity shops, because they just take advantage of big businesses leaving. I wouldn’t think charity shops have anything to do with the lack of brands on the high street – if anything, they stop them looking run down.

An occupied shop always has to be better than an empty one.”

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