Charity shops are the next retail chains to be hit by the current downward trend of UK high streets.

In Wilton, the 50-year-old Burnbake Trust’s two retail outlets in West Street, and North Street, have had to resort to sale notices to stimulate sales of donated goods. The charity also gives away furniture and a comprehensive range of other household items when strife-torn families are rehoused.

One recent example is of a mother and three children with no more possessions than the clothes they wore were taken out of bed-and-breakfast and rehoused by the local authority.

Burnbake supplied most of the furniture and kitchen utensils and other everyday items needed to house and feed the family.

“But the local authority expects us to deliver the goods without payment,” said Rita Maple, Burnbake Trust manager for the past 33 years. And the trust is called on regularly to help the local social services with ‘fitting out’ families and individuals.

The trust also supplies a similar service to the Women’s Refuge and the SSAFA.

“We sometimes get a small payment but it often does not cover the cost of collecting and delivering the furniture,” Rita said. Up to four years ago, Wiltshire Council gave an annual donation to the trust to help fund the work, but the funding ceased four years ago and the trust was £4,500 a year worse off, she added.

The council has also stopped the charities from taking their excess stock, mostly unusable, to the recyling centres – another on-cost – even if the goods are fly-tipped at the charity’s warehouse or outside its shops. Taking it to a private operator cost £180 a ton, Rita stressed.

The charity is drawing on reserves to keep it afloat but is desperately in need of cash through sales and donations to help pay its overhead costs and its small staff, backed by 20 volunteers. The trust’s 50th anniversary is celebrated at Michael Herbert Hall, Wilton, on September 7, from 7pm to midnight, with live music by ‘Cat and Mouse’, a buffet supper and bar, and a raffle.

Tickets are £12.50 and available from Valley News, Wilton Hardware, Burnbake Trust North Street shop.

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