Extending credit: Understanding pawnbroking customers’ options

Around 350,000 people use pawnbroking services each year, but the industry is in decline. This report builds a picture of why pawnbroking customers' use the service, how satisfied they are with it, and, crucially, what they would do if it were to vanish from the credit market.

  • Pawnbroking – a sector that provides a legitimate credit product to its 350,000 customers – is an industry in decline. In 2014, there were 2,091 shops in the UK. In 2021, there were 865. Industry members say one reason for this is that banks are withdrawing their services from pawnbroking businesses.
  • Pawnbrokers provide a vital service to solving cash flow problems. Pawnbroking customers have lower than average incomes and are sometimes living in difficult and precarious financial circumstances. Interviewees said they use pawnbroking because they have few or no other significant alternative means of accessing credit products. They would like to be able to borrow from high street banks, but believe that is not possible because of their credit score.
  • Customers are unsure what they would do if pawnbroking became unavailable. Lack of access to credit could have serious consequences for interviewees, particularly in the context of rising inflation and falling real incomes, including from benefits. Interviewees’ concerns include having less scope to spend on food or heating.


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