Brits set to waste money on millions of unwanted gifts this Christmas

published on 10 Nov 2014

- Salvation Army urges shoppers to budget a little for good causes and uncover ‘treasure trove of gift potential’ in Christmas Charity Shop Challenge -

Christmas is a time for giving and a poll by the Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd has revealed that giving presents ranks as one of the highest reasons us Brits get into the festive spirit. But as much as we love to give at Christmastime, on average, we each receive three presents we don’t actually want. Worse still, almost half of us actually leave these unwanted gifts to gather dust in the back of a cupboard. 

The survey of 2000 Brits also revealed that we each expect to spend well over £240 on gifts and Christmas outfits this year. Paul Wright, Head of Retail Operations at the Salvation Army Trading Company commented: “It’s astonishing to find out that we spend so much at Christmas when so many people receive gifts they don’t actually want. For a population of over 60 million in the UK, that’s potentially millions of wasted presents as well as millions of wasted pounds!”

Paul added: “This is why we’re launching our Christmas Charity Shop Challenge. Our charity shops are treasure troves for gift potential – Christmas jumpers or once-worn dresses, books and DVD box sets, vintage jewellery. The beauty is uncovering a real gem or a bargain and knowing your money is going towards a good cause that’s desperately in need of your support.”

The charity, which runs 200 shops across the UK, is challenging people to spend just a little of their Christmas budget in charity shops to help make a big difference to those in need. Shoppers are encouraged to ditch their habits and venture into their nearest charity shops, find or donate some treasures and upload photos online at  using #MyCharityChallenge.

The survey revealed that women are slightly more responsible with their unwanted gifts than men. Of those that won’t sit at the back of a cupboard, only four per cent of women will throw presents away (versus 12 per cent of men) and 32 per cent will give their unwanted gifts to other people (versus 18 per cent of men), with only 36 per cent giving them to charity (versus 25 per cent of men). However 20 per cent of both men and women polled said they will try their luck on a refund or an exchange for the gift.

While two thirds of Brits will generally shop in charity shops at other times of the year, a slightly higher proportion of people won’t ever buy Christmas gifts or clothes from charity shops at Christmastime.

Paul Wright said: “Instead of wasting cash on novelty gifts that will gather dust, you could find unique stocking fillers from charity shops while helping us raise vital funds. We want people to take on the Christmas Charity Shop Challenge and help us spread the word by sharing all the wonderful items out there.”

The poll revealed that almost 60 per cent of us will buy stocking fillers for friends and family, spending an average £32. The top three items Brits ranked the worst among stocking gifts are ‘useless’ novelty items, ‘tacky’ ornaments and bath sets. If you’re buying a stocking filler for a woman in your life, the way to her heart is through confectionery, books and jewellery. While if your recipient is a man, steer towards DVDs and games.

Profit that the Salvation Army Trading Company receives through the sale of generous donations from the British public is given to the charity to help people who are vulnerable and in need across the UK. This includes homelessness and addiction services, care for older people, help at emergency incidents, support for adult victims of human trafficking in England and Wales and a Family Tracing Service. £9 could help bring a homeless person in from the cold, £19 could go towards a Christmas box for a family in need, £28 could help give five lonely older people a Christmas lunch and friendship.

To take part in the Christmas Charity Shop Challenge, visit for details.

Notes to editors

This survey of 2000 UK residents was commissioned by the Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd and carried out by One Poll.

Statistical highlights

·         When asked what people loved most about Christmas, the top three things ranked in order were family getting together, the food, presents

·         When asked what gives them the most Christmas spirit, the top three things ranked in order having family together, giving gifts, having Christmas dinner

·         On average, respondents get three presents at Christmas they don’t want, with those aged 18-34 getting an average of four unwanted gifts

·         When asked what happens to these unwanted gifts, the majority (42 per cent) usually end up keeping them in the bottom of a cupboard

·         On average, respondents will budget to spend £208 on Christmas gifts and £32 on Christmas clothes

·         59 per cent of people will buy stocking fillers and will spend an of £32.50 on these

·         The top three most disliked stocking fillers ranked in order are useless novelty items, tacky ornaments and bath sets

·         When asked what the best item they’ve ever received as a stocking filler, most popular with respondents were, confectionery, a book, jewellery and DVDs (least popular were toys and stationery)

·         62 per cent of people will generally shop in charity shops while 65 per cent of people will not buy Christmas gifts or clothes for the season in charity shops

About us

The Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd (SATCoL) is the trading arm of The Salvation Army in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Established in 1991 to create jobs, benefit the environment and, through profitable trading to help fund The Salvation Army’s work in the UK, SATCoL has donated millions of pounds to The Salvation Army since its formation (over £39.5 million has been donated in the last five years*)

* Calculated from April 2009 to March 2014

For more information on SATCoL charity shops visit

Media contact

Catherine Hamou, Communications Manager

Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd

020 7601 7025 / 07715 070137