A local businessman has hit out at charity shops which sell new furniture, claiming they are unfairly undercutting businesses like his.
William (Billy) Martin owns Martin’s Discount Stores, which sells furniture and carpets from its branches in Portadown and Armagh.
He said, “As far as I’m concerned, charity shops can sell whatever they want as long as they pay the same rates as me, but at the moment it’s not a level playing field because they don’t pay rates. They can undercut me because they don’t have the same overheads.”
The issue of charity shops was raised in last week’s Times by town trader Colin Robinson who pointed out that Portadown has at least 25 charity shops and criticised the unfair competition they posed to traditional businesses.
Mr Martin, who founded his family business 40 years ago, said he fully supported the comments made by Mr Robinson, and by Adrian Farrell, president of Portadown Chamber of Commerce.
The businessman has stores in Cecil Street, Portadown, and Dobbin Street, Armagh, but had to close his Banbridge shop in June after the lease expired.
He added, “I do my bit for charity. I have run the Orchard County Vintage Rally for 25 years and during that time we have raised over £100,000 for Chest, Heart and Stroke, Marie Curie Cancer Care and Diabetes NI, so that’s not the issue.
“The issue is I pay £31,000 per year in rates for the Portadown and Armagh shops and my VAT bill every three months is between £20,000-£40,000, and that’s before I pay electricity and staff wages.”
Mr Martin, who employs a eight staff and has five vans, feels so aggrieved he wrote to Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy asking him to look into the rules surrounding charity shops.
He also contacted Armagh UUP councillor Jim Speers who did his own ‘survey’ and confirmed that some charity shops are selling new furniture. He added, “This is not just specific to Portadown. Charity shops do a tremendous job but I believe there is cause for concern and a thorough examination needs to take place to ensure these shops are being run in accordance with the rules.”
In response to Mr Martin, Mr Kennedy said his office had submitted a number of questions to the Minister of Finance and Personnel on this “important issue”.
Mr Kennedy said he had asked the minister to outline the criteria for rates exemption and whether there were plans to review the legislation.
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