During the recession landlords and stakeholders were desperate to get charities in to vacant units rather than contemplate rows of empty and boarded up shops.
The Government backed a nationwide campaign fronted by Mary Portas in a bid to try and put our struggling High Streets back on their feet.
As retailers moved out, charity chains and pop-up stores moved in.
In many cases they were the only sectors left standing, helping to keep West Country High Streets ticking over during the downturn.
The growth of charity shops hit a peak in 2013 with some 10,000 shops reported across the UK. In some High Street locations it seemed that the not for profit retail outlets were in danger of outnumbering conventional retailers, potentially undermining rental values.
But now the retail property market is recovering charities are finding their choices are becoming increasingly constricted.
As supply diminishes and rents begin to rise once more, landlords are starting to think twice before allowing vacant properties to go for low or ‘peppercorn’ rents.
In some fringe locations, landlords may have found entirely new uses for their vacant retail property, turning abandoned shop premises over to residential or alternative commercial uses.
Paul Williams commented: “Today’s rapidly changing retail property market is placing a question mark over what had been a virtual year-on-year expansion programme for the charity sector. Inevitably there is a limit to the number of charity shops which can be viable in any given location.
“As commercial property specialists we are active in the not for profit sector - and carry out important work acquiring premises or negotiating leases on behalf of a number of leading UK charities.
In response to the ever-changing market trends we have set up a special hotline for those charities who find themselves struggling to maintain their existing property portfolio – let alone identifying new shop outlets.
He concluded: “Many charities are still looking for additional store outlets but they won’t be as spoilt for choice as they were four or five years ago.
“During the downturn charities were often able to take their pick of business locations on very low rents or in some cases rent free. With an 80 per cent reduction in business rates also available in most cases, charity occupiers were able to trade successfully in some very marginal locations, as well as picking up units in better locations at below market value.
But the rapidly recovering economy has reignited interest in all commercial property and this increasing demand could impact on charity operations, particularly where the charity has little or no security of tenure as a condition of being allowed to occupy on concessionary terms.
“We heard of one instance where a charity was offered a shop on a rent free basis but without any security of tenure. By the time they had recruited volunteers to run it and arranged to fit it out the landlord wanted it back as they had found a commercial tenant to take a lease.
“Whilst this is an extreme case, it seems clear that the changing retail market could put pressure on the charity sector as a whole, as they seek to maintain income from their retail operations.”