Charity shops overwhelmed by post-lockdown donations


Now shops have begun reopening, second-hand stores are facing a huge influx of goods from people who have taken the chance for a major clear-out

Not enough space

Charity shops across Flanders are struggling to deal with the quantity of goods being donated and are asking people to hold on to their items a little longer. While many people have used the coronavirus lockdown as an opportunity to clear out their cupboards, attics and cellars, second-hand shops report being overwhelmed with donated goods.

As safety measures were relaxed, stores were allowed to reopen on 11 May, having been closed since March. Shops in the Kringwinkel chain in Antwerp have received double their usual daily amount of donations, and don’t have enough space or staff to process and store it all. Everything they receive must be first sorted, cleaned and repaired if necessary before being put on sale.

“Because people are unable to work too closely together, we are still not at full capacity and are short of people to process everything,” said Louise Vrints, spokesperson for De Kringwinkel Antwerpen, in De Standaard. The chain’s warehouses are also full. To try and stem the flow, their nine stores will temporarily be unable to accept donations on Saturdays throughout June, the busiest day of the week. “It’s a drastic but essential decision,” Vrints said. “In recent weeks, shops have hardly been able to close their doors because of the mass of donated items.”

More need than ever

The problem isn’t limited to Antwerp. “It’s a general trend,” said Joren Verschaeve of Herwin, the umbrella organisation that manages circular enterprises including Kringwinkel. “Since the reopening we have asked customers to wait before bringing in donations, which was adhered to for the first week. But since last week, the pressure has increased and we’ve seen a huge influx of goods.”

We are still not at full capacity and are short of people to process everything

- Louise Vrints

The organisation has called on local businesses and the Flemish government to provide support and extra temporary storage space. The city of Aalst, for example, has offered warehousing and public parking to the local Kringwinkel. “That will help us to ensure that nothing goes to waste, which is good for the climate and society,” Verschaeve said. “The impact of the coronavirus means there will be more need than ever for good quality and affordable goods.”

The ViTeS chain in Flemish Brabant has also reported a threefold increase in the volume of donated goods, with a marked difference in the items being donated. “Before it was mostly household goods and small items like books and toys; now people are coming with trailers full of furniture,” manager Luc Daelemans told VRT.

Reservation systems have been put in place for some shops, with time slots allocated to donors to help the flow of goods. People are advised to check with the store before travelling to drop off items.

Photo courtesy De Kringwinkel