Callous shoplifters increasingly targeting Burnley charity shops

The Pendleside Hospice shop in St James's Street, Burnley
The Pendleside Hospice shop in St James's Street, Burnley
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The woman responsible for overseeing Pendleside Hospice's vital outlet shops has spoken of her despair that they and other charities are being targeted by shoplifters.

Mrs Catherine Argyle, the retail manager for the hospice's 10 shops across Burnley and Pendle, has called for more action to protect charity shops which are increasingly falling victim to heartless thieves.

The discarded hangers

The discarded hangers

Her appeal was prompted after the discovery in the street of a large number of clothes hangers bearing hospice tags alongside others from the RSPCA shop, which is located across St James's Street in Burnley.

Catherine said: "We were contacted by a member of the public who had found the hangers in the Healey Wood area of Burnley. Obviously this is a fair way from Burnley town centre where our shop and the RSPCA shop are located. The clothes must have been stolen on the same day.

"It confirmed our fears that we are being targeted by shoplifters because we're seen as a soft touch. I think this has been going on for a long time. When I spoke to Ken Harrison, the manager of the RSPCA shop, he shared similar fears.

"Our shops have staffed mainly by volunteers so it is very disheartening for them and our customers. Because we rely on donations it is difficult to keep stock of what we have as all items are individual so it is impossible to say how much is being stolen from us.

"However, we regularly find tickets on the floor of our shops which indicates clothes are being stolen from us. It is very upsetting because these people are stealing the public's donations but ulimately harming the charities and their recipients."

Mr Harrison, who is responsible for RSPCA shops in Burnley, Clitheroe and Accrington, said the idea of his volunteers confronting potential shoplifters wasn't pleasant, and agreed with Catherine that better communication between shops, the police and the local council could help.

He said: "I was shocked but not surprised when I heard about the discovery of the hangers. I think the issue needs highlighting because we are all losing money and as charities we cannot afford to do so."

Catherine added that she has requested a meeting with the new town centre manager for Burnley, Andrew Dean, in a bid to establish better communication links between shops in a bid to catch shoplifters.