As the UK’s struggling high street continues to fall into disrepair, one town has become something of a ‘charity shop capital’, with fifteen of the second-hand stores now lining one single stretch of road.
Last year saw retail giants including Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld all close their doors, as expensive rental costs and the rise of online shopping continued to push high street retailers out of favour, with the British Retail Consortium estimating that around 85,000 retail jobs had been lost.
Across the UK, more and more prime town centre real estate is being turned over to charity shops, which pay lower business rates, and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the West Midlands town of Shirley, which boasts fifteen of the stores within a 0.4 mile stretch.
Stratford Road is home to shops run by Age UK, Debra, Cancer Research, The Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, Marie Curie, Oxfam, Women’s Aid, Salvation Army, PDSA, Sense, Anchor Charity Shop, Acorns, Scope and the RSPCA.
Graphic above shows how much of the street in Shirley is taken up by various charity shops
Charity shops (pictured above) dominate the high street in Shirley in the West Midlands
A shopper browses in the window of the PDSA charity shop (pictured) which sits alongside a Card Factory store
The high street also features other stores such as a Specsavers and a Card Factory (pictured above)
Under Solihull Borough Council rules, charity shops in the town are entitled to an 80 per cent discount off business rates.
The street itself if home to 42 retail units which are occupied by traditional high street retailers and estate agents. This amounts to around one in every three shops on the high street being a charity shop.
There are also 34 eateries on the stretch which consist of pubs, restaurants and cafes. This is as well as seven hair salons, eight banks, and two betting shops.
But despite the trend for the toppling of the UK high street, Shirley only has four retail units which are empty. This includes a former Cantonese takeaway, a former holiday shop, a Turkish barbers shop which is set to be opening and an Aldi which is closed for refurbishment.
Empty shops included an Aldi (pictured above) which is currently closed for refurbishment works
One of the four empty units is a retail unit next to a takeaway which says a Turkish barbers will be opening soon (pictured above)
Luna Poly (pictured above) had previously been a holiday shop and is now closed
The Barnardos charity shop (pictured left) on the Stratford Road on the main high street remains open while a Cantonese takeaway, Forbidden City remains closed and vacant (right)
The Local Data Company [LDC], which monitors trends across the county’s high streets, confirmed with 17 charity shops in total Shirley is the town with the highest ratio of charity shops to normal shops in the UK.
Charity shops make up 12.7 per cent of the town’s total shops – a much higher figure than the town of Uckfield in Sussex, second highest with 6.5 per cent.
A spokesman for the LDC said: ‘I can confirm, comparatively speaking, Shirley is the town with the most charity shops.
‘We can’t comment on the half-mile stretch, as we only have figures on a town level.’
Residents of Shirley (welcome sign pictured left) have complained about the amount of charity shops in the area (Women’s Aid pictured right)
Stratford Road runs through Shirley Town centre on the outskirts of Birmingham
The RSPCA charity shop (pictured above) which help raises money for animals in need
Stratford Street has the most charity shops in the whole of the town centre
But some residents think the proliferation of charity shops in the area is having a negative impact on business.
One resident who has lived in the area for 19 years, Dorothy Day, 79, said: ‘I think there are far too many charity shops here – they’re everywhere you go. I am shocked.
‘All these shops used to be stunning, so it’s sad now every other shop is a charity shop.
‘There should be more independent shops – I don’t like to hear people are buying from charity shops, because what’s going to happen to the high street then?’
The Salvation Army charity shop on the Stratford Road on Shirleys main high street
The Scope charity shop (pictured above) which sells a variety of clothing and homewares
Residents of Shirley have complained that the Stratford Road (pictured above) is being taken over by charity shops
The Sense charity shop (pictured above) also has a presence on the high street and raises money for those battling complex disabilities
Business rates have soared in some locations across the UK and the minimum wage rates paid to many shop workers have gone up by more than the rate of inflation, but despite this high street stores continue to be hit and many have had to take company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) to close outlets and lay off staff, in order to cut costs.
Shopper Dominique Carey, 36, said: ‘Shirley is famous for charity shops.
‘They go all the way along, and I know a lot of people who come just for them.
‘I do think 15 is excessive, some are better than others.
The Anchor charity shop in Shirley (pictured above) which raises money for the Boys’ Brigade and the Girls’ Association
The Age UK shop also features a clothing rail outside the store that shoppers can purchase from
The line of shops in Shirley which show how the charity shops are dominating the retail scene in the area
From one side of the street three charity shops can be spotted such as Oxfam, Marie Curie and Women’s Aid
‘They’re not taking up space from independent shops as a lot of stores in Shirley open and close again.’
Pete Smyth, 51, said: ‘There are too many – there should be more independent traders instead of constant charity shops – we only need a couple of those.’
Last year PwC found 1,123 stores had disappeared from Britain’s top 500 high streets in the first half of the year. This is while the Local Data Company recorded the number of new shops, restaurant and leisure openings fell to 19,803 over the same period—leaving 4,402 more gaps on the high street.
A total of 175,000 jobs are set to disappear from the High Street this year as the onslaught from online rivals continues.
A slump in the value of retail property is expected to see 23,395 shops shut as customers shun town centres in favour of internet shopping, according to property experts.
The Marie Curie and Oxfam shop sit next to each other on the high street (pictured above)
Figures from the Local Data Company, which monitors trends across the county’s high streets, said while there has been growth in this sector since 2013, with a 2.8 per cent rise in the number of stores, this slowed and even began to reverse over the last year.
A string of bosses from some of the UK’s biggest High Street companies have called for ministers to create a level playing field in how traditional retailers and online-only firms such as Amazon are taxed.
According to a survey of major property owners in the UK by real estate experts Altus Group, almost two-thirds think Amazon and other online firms have disrupted the retail market.
Since October 2017 the number of charity shops in the UK has actually dropped by 1.6 per cent – but Shirley appears to be bucking the national trend.
MailOnline contacted Solihull Borough Council for comment.