Charity begins on the high street, according to a new report which claims the stores boost local businesses, residents and communities.
Researchers for think tank Demos found the volunteer-run shops keep consumers on the high street and drastically reduce the number of empty shops.
The Demos report also found charity shops helped tackle health and social problems, particularly social isolation, with the UK's ageing population.
Ally Paget, a researcher at Demos and the author of the report, said: "It is a real shame that the multitude of benefits offered by charity shops is so often unrecognised and under used, especially in this time of austerity.
"Local authorities can and should do more to support charity shops at a business level, and to draw on the capacity of charity shops to spur local regeneration."
Shoppers shunned the high street in increasing numbers in October as a decline in footfall worsened for the third month in a row.
Trips to high streets, shopping centres and out-of-town retail parks dropped by 2.9% compared to last year, after falling by 2.4% in September and 0.9% in August, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
A surge in shopping visits during the heatwave summer is now a distant memory, with last month's drop in footfall the worst since March, when unprecedentedly cold spring weather persuaded consumers to stay away from stores.
It is the latest sign of the struggles facing the high street after figures from the Office for National Statistics last week showed retail sales fell 0.7% month-on-month in October.
Town centres are continuing to suffer despite the upswing in the economy, a leading accountancy firm has found.
High street shops were closing at a rate of 18 per day during the first half of 2013, with charity stores, betting shops and cheque cashing outlets filling the void.
A study of 500 UK town centres from accountants PwC compiled by the Local Data Company showed 3,366 outlets closed in the six-month period, compared with 3,157 openings, a net reduction of 209 shops.
Video and photography and women's fashion shops suffered the biggest drop in numbers.
Mike Jervis, insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC, explained: "Upticks in areas such as cheque cashing and pawnbroker reflect a society where a sizeable part of the population is forced to turn to these types of borrowing for basic needs."
The early timing of Ramadan has helped stimulate food sales, delivering high street retailers a much needed boost, the British Retail Consortium said.
Despite tough comparisons from last year, food sales are up, with drinks and ice cream sales increasing along with the temperatures.
Retailers are hoping the imminent arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's baby, expected in the next few days, will give another boost to the high street as shoppers stock up on champagne and memorabilia.
In new figures released today, the British Retail Consortium said total high street sales grew 2.9% in June, with real terms growth being at 2.3% over the past six months, compared with 1.5% over the past 12 months.
High street retailers have enjoyed two months of increased consumer spending, according to the British Retail Consortium.
- Like-for-like retail sales rose 1.4% in June on a year earlier
- Like-for-like retail sales rose 1.8% in May
The figures lift hopes the retail sector can contribute to growth in the second quarter of this year, with gross domestic product (GDP) expected to rise by at least 0.5%.
"Respectable" growth figures from the first half of the year show retail is continuing to make a recovery, the head of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said. Announcing rising sales from May and June, BRC director general Helen Dickinson said:
Despite challenging economic conditions continuing, June saw another strong performance from the UK's retailers, with very respectable overall growth across the categories.
At this halfway point in the year we are able to see that sales are well ahead of the previous six-month period, confirming that the retail recovery is continuing.
Warmer temperatures in May and June lifted sales of clothing and footwear to give the high street a much needed boost, the British Retail Consortium said.
Sales rose for the second consecutive month in June, raising hope that a recovering in consumer spending was beginning to fuel the economy.
More than one in five of Britain's high street shops could close by 2018 as customers turn towards the internet, a study has shown.
Around 62,000 shops will fold in the next five years, according to research carried out by the Centre for Retail Research and reported in the Daily Mail.
The independent retail analysis group estimated that around 316,000 workers would lose their jobs as a result and large areas of Britain's high streets would be turned into housing.
Wales and the North West are predicted to see the highest number of closures, with nearly one in three expected to shut, while the South East is expected to see a 13% decrease in the number of shops by 2018.
Online shopping is expected to surge over the next few years, accounting for 22% of retail spending by 2018 compared to 12.7% currently, the study suggested.
We requested your response to Marks & Spencer's fall profits on our Facebook page, asking has the once High Street favourite lost its shine?
Many of the responses suggested the retailer's pricing was deterring customers.
Clive Templar said "items are far too expensive", while Steve Smith urged the shop to "lower your prices".
It seems few of you were surprised that M&S would suffer a significant slump in clothing sales, while seeing food sales rise.
"Foods nice," Vanessa Ashton said, but added that she "can get nicer, cheaper, good fitting clothes from lots of other stores!"
Margaret Fenwick agreed that the firm had lost clothing customers to other shops, blaming "cheaper quality and inferior goods".
Louise Linter said she preferred M&S when it "sold more classic styles".
However, there was still support for the traditional retailer.
Colin Smith said he would definitely continue to shop at a "great British institution" while Simon Jobson said: "I do love the food there."