Prices of charity shop grade clothing are down around 5-10% in the last month, industry experts say.
Alan Wheeler from the Textiles Recycling Association told MRW: “In the last month or so we have seen some merchants decreasing the amount that they are paying to their charity shops for charity shop grade clothing.”
Wheeler observed a marked increase in enquiries from charity shops about finding a new collector for the clothes they want to sell on. This could be related to an increase in charity shops on the high street, suggesting more competion was driving prices down.
An industry source told MRW that the main reason for the price drop was a reduction in demand from Eastern Europe, which had driven the UK clothing reuse and recycling market since around 2004.
“Merchants from Eastern Europe have been cutting back and becoming more particular. This ties in with the fact quality has been dropping over the past three or four years,” the source added.
British clothes are also said to be more expensive than clothes from Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavian countries.
Cash for clothes businesses had also impacted the market. “Cash for clothes enables people to buy from the public direct, leaving charity shops with low quality clothes and all the overheads for getting rid of them.”
Matt George, head of logistics for the trading division of Oxfam, said: “We have not seen any decline in our market in recent months, and definitely not 5% drop or threat of a drop.”
But he added: “We do not sell wholesale from shops to UK rag merchants, and are sorting most of our stock - generally getting strong prices from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Middle eastern markets for semi-sort large bales.”
Neither the trading arm of the Salvation Army nor the Charity Retail Association would comment when approached by MRW.