2020 and the Rise of the Online Charity Shop

2020 and the Rise of the Online Charity Shop

On earth day, we remember all of those who’ve been so severely impacted by the pandemic and celebrate our ability to overcome challenges. There are few, if any, who have been untouched by this pandemic. The economic recession triggered by the pandemics’ global surge has desolated businesses large and small. Our very way of life changed, pushing us all out of our comfort zones. But we also learned that big action is possible and we saw new solutions and possibilities emerge.

As a direct result of this crisis, Ireland has seen more than 3,000 businesses forced to shut shop (Irish Times 2020) and with the introduction of Brexit since January 1st, this number will surely be increased with future implications and pressures on Irish businesses. The retail sector will endure new costs in the Irish supply chain as a result of diverging regulatory requirements. The negative effects of Brexit and COVID-19 mean some local retailers must inevitably, shut their doors. Our emissions plummetted.



When the virus reached our shores and took hold, the commercial property and retail sectors struggled immensely. With the lack of footfall and a general cautiousness in consumer sentiment, main street stores had many unique challenges to overcome, none more so than the charity retail sector.

During the first national lockdown, SVP reported that shop closures resulted in a loss of €2m (RTE, 2020). In October 2020, NCBI estimated that the closure of its shops during the second lockdown will result in a loss of over €1 million. NCBI’s chief executive, Chris White said he “fully understands” the restrictions are necessary to protect public health; “but the consequences will result in considerable strain on funding for services provided by NCBI”. (Irish Times, 2020).


Closures have not only affected charities finances and services, but also took away the crucial role charity shops play in our communities, often they are the access point to vital services. Social interactions and connections make up the fibre of our society as well as the foundation of our charity shops. Marginalised communities have long benefited from such connections and the charity sector has faced the enormous challenge of not only delivering its services but its very survival.

In the midst of restrictions and closures there came possibilities and opportunities. The ability to adapt and change has seen the sector diversify into e-commerce with the help of marketplace platforms such as Thriftify. From approximately 28% of Irish charity retailers selling online in February 2020 to over 95% now.

Thriftify saw an opportunity in 2018 to develop an e-commerce platform for charity shops to help them overcome barriers and sell their donated items to an online audience. Selling online would expand their reach, generating additional income and engaging the general public in sustainable consumption.

Now working with practically all of Ireland’s charity retailers, and growing rapidly in the UK, Thriftify allows the most remote charity shops to connect to a wider market and unlock fundraising potential during Covid-19. “Spraoi agus Spórt”, located in Carndonagh in Donegal is an example of such success. Having partnered up with Thriftify and have introduced their Fadó charity shop to the ecommerce world.

Co-Founder and CEO of “Spraoi agus Spórt” Helen Nolan noted that “With the fantastic help of staff member Arlene Davenport and the Transition Year students from Carndonagh Community School we have been able to scan over 600 items” “We’ve already shipped over 100 orders so far to almost every county in Ireland”. (Donegal Daily, 2020).

In the midst of the retail shut down, partnerships such as this have resulted in huge environmental benefits. On earth day, we’re proud to release some of the environmental impact that our charity partners achieved in 2020 by selling online.

Considering that the fashion industry accounts for over 10% of all global emissions, making fashion sustainable must be a key goal, for all of us. By breaking down the impact into categories we can see the huge impact buying a second-hand garment can have on our environment and the small changes we can make together that create immense positive and universal change.

  • In 2020, the preloved dresses we sold saved the equivalent of 9,771kg of carbon dioxide from being released into our atmosphere. Selling sustainable frocks took 1,323 cars off our roads daily and saved 2,692,911 litres of water. 
  • The sale of jumpers and cardigans saved 1,968kg of CO2 emissions; the equivalent of 100 trees absorbing carbon dioxide daily, 342 cars removed from our roads daily and 319,684 litres of water saved.
  • Our coats and jackets salesduring 2020 have stopped the release of 5,701kg CO2 emissions. This translates into 290 trees absorbing carbon dioxide daily, 1,003 cars removed from our roads daily and 713,372 litres of water saved.
  • Trousers alone saved 2,320,976 litres of water and stopped the release of 7,235kg of CO2. The equivalent of 1,271 cars off our roads daily and 367 mature trees absorbing CO2 daily.

In 2020, Thriftify’s overall sales of second-hand gems stopped the release of 36.7 tonnes of CO2 into our atmosphere. Putting this into context, the equivalent impact of this thrifting is 1,723 trees absorbing CO2 daily, 5,942 cars off our roads daily, 4,676,862 mobile phones charged and 11,945,088 litres of water being saved.

Now, for the really amazing part, in 2021 we’ve already saved 48% more CO2 than in all of 2020! So far this year our partners have stopped 54.3 tonnes of CO2 being emitted. We predict that in 2021 we’re going to save over half a million tonnes in total. Driven by more customers joining the sustainable fashion movement and charity shops uploading more products to cater for that demand. It's an ambitious target, but what we've learned over the last year is that people are ready for change, for solutions and for a more sustainable way of living.

Buying a second-hand garment instead of new can have a huge impact on our environment. The small changes we’re enabling consumers to make, is creating immense positive and lasting change. In 2020 global emissions dropped substantially, but this year all predictions are that we’ll see record breaking emissions. The window to avert a climate catastrophe is closing quickly, but we now know that new solutions and mass action is possible.

The last year has been hugely challenging, for all of us, but it has shown how resilient we are and that if we really want to, we can create transformative solutions to our biggest problems.