I’ve mentioned in previous blogs about the long overdue development of many charity shops from musty old thrift stores into viable high street competitors. A recent visit to my local Marie Curie shop in East Belfast demonstrated the high level of retail savvy that charity shops are now employing. And I for one am glad to see it.
85% of UK households have at least one loyalty card-my wallet is overflowing with them. From the supermarkets to chemists, and from coffee shops to restaurants, retailers are seeking our loyalty wherever we go with the promise of a reward for our custom. Marie Curie is the first charity that I’ve encountered using loyalty cards in-store.
According to Tesco Personal Finance Director, Crawford Davidson, ‘most retailers who have launched a loyalty scheme experience a 1-4% sales uplift. The more common ones… are around 2%’. So there’s a very clear rationale for charities to trial this well tested marketing strategy.
More and more charities are increasing their high street presence-a combination of greater brand understanding as well as the opportunities that so often come in recessionary times. A recent survey for the Charity Retail Association found that six in 10 people agree that the existence of charity shops makes them more likely to give. Shop traffic therefore translates not only into real time purchases but long term fundraising. So, it makes sense to try and increase the loyalty of this footfall, committed and accidental.
As a charity shop fan, I’m not necessarily brand loyal. In fact, I’d probably class myself as product loyal. If I fancy some new vintage jewellery, or I’m craving an addition to our Penguin Classics collection, or if I feel like a new dress, I know which local charity shop will hold the best opportunity to find the product I’m after and that’s where I will go. So, I don’t believe that the Marie Curie card will encourage me to shop in Marie Curie stores more than any other on that basis.
However, what this fantastic loyalty card has done is to increase my admiration for a charity brand that is investing in new opportunities. It’s positioned Marie Curie in my mind as a charity that knows what it’s doing and is innovative in its practices. It also says to me that Marie Curie is happy for my custom, no matter how small my investment, and that they want to thank me for continuing to support their cause with a small gesture.
Loyalty does not come easily. A card is not an immediate indicator of my affection. As I said above, I’ve got a wallet full of them but most I actually choose not to use. Why? Because the promise of a treat doesn’t always endear me to the brand. No amount of free coffee would convince me to walk in the door of a well-known retailer for a variety of reasons. But if I feel an affinity to your purpose, cause or intent, the likelihood is your loyalty card will be well used and appreciated. I’m a loyal friend if I believe in your brand. For those reasons, I think Marie Curie is guaranteed my custom for many years ahead.