Oxfam to shut shops as coronavirus pandemic worsens

Oxfam has announced it will close all of its high street shops until the worst of the coronavirus pandemic has passed in a bid to protect its staff and customers.

The international aid charity has around 600 outlets across the UK, each with a volunteer workforce of about 30 people.

The shops will close at the end of trading on Saturday and remain shut until further notice.

Oxfam’s deputy trading director, Anne Webb said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to shut our shops until the danger of the coronavirus has eased.

“But it’s absolutely the right thing to do as the safety of our staff, volunteers and shoppers comes first.

“Some of our volunteers are elderly, and especially vulnerable to the infection, and we are acutely conscious of our responsibilities towards them.”

The charity has asked people not to leave donations outside its shops, and is planning to set up a network of hubs where items can be left as its online store will remain open.

Oxfam’s shops raised £17.3 million after costs in the last financial year and the decision to close them will be a major blow to its fundraising efforts.

It is predicted that many other charities could follow suit as the crisis deepens.

Robin Osterley, chief executive of the Charity Retail Association, said on Tuesday that its members were facing staffing issues as the elderly make up a large proportion of its volunteer workforce.

Mr Osterley, whose organisation represents 9,000 charity shops across 400 different charities, told the PA news agency: “The biggest issue for our members right now is staffing, because we rely heavily on volunteers in this sector.

“A lot of them are elderly and they are now thinking that they should be staying at home.

“I think there is potential for shops to have to close, possibly in quite substantial numbers over the next few weeks.”