Oxfam has felt the effects of the recession as it reports its first drop in donations for eight years.

The charity shop’s donations are down 12 per cent so far this year, which it fears could mean a total of 1.2 million fewer donations in 2009.

Demand for Oxfam’s goods remains high, though. Shopper numbers are at the same level as 2008 and sales are up 5 per cent year on year.

The retailer attributed its sales uplift to partnerships with Marks & Spencer, opening new fashion boutiques, and asking volunteers to keep shops open for longer.

The housing slump has meant donations in homewares such as crockery, china, glass and curtains are down by 7 per cent, and donations of furniture have dropped by 13 per cent.

Oxfam director of trading David McCullough said: “The £20m profit made by our shops last year would be enough to fund all of Oxfam’s work in DR Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia for a year. But we can’t sell fresh air, and they of course rely on the generosity of the public for their stock. Without continued donations of everything from clothing to cookware, Oxfam shops could not continue to play such a key role in communities across the UK.”

However, McCullough said the recession offers opportunities for the charity sector, including taking new properties at cheaper rents.

He said: “Our new shops – such as our specialist books, fashion or music shops – can bring something new to the high street and allow us to raise even more for Oxfam. The most important thing, though, is that people keep bringing us their stuff: whether it’s a pair of trousers or a pair of curtains, we can use it to make money and help poor people all over the world.”