Charity shop, thrift shop, second hand, op shop, goodwill or whatever you like to call them, it’s a place where you can buy old or nearly new goods for a fraction of the original cost (and help out a good cause).
when I was a child, in the late ’90s and early ’00s, charity shops had a bit of a tough press, especially where I lived. They were seen as shops that smelled and only stocked clothes people had died in. From my experience, they were seen as the shops you bought your clothes in if your mum couldn’t afford to buy nice, new clothes.
Today, for the most part, it would seem that the snobbery stigma of charity shopping has passed and people (me) light up when they tell their friends, “thanks, I got it in a charity shop. £1.50!” Charity shops can hold some amazing treasures and unbelievable bargains, but they can also hold some absolute crap. Today, I’m going to give you some tips and advice on how to get the most out of charity shopping.
I have first-hand knowledge of life in front and behind the counter, after volunteering in one for over a year in 2012. I loved it so much and I think that if I wasn’t in the field I was in now, I would have loved to be a general manager of a charity shop; doing the work and getting paid. Every donation is something different and new, some of it’s rubbish and you know it isn’t going to sell. Other stuff is like golden nuggets, rare, popular and valuable. It is true that by volunteering, you do get first ‘dibs’ on what comes in.
- Go Regularly.
I visit my local charity shops every week. After working full time all week, it’s a nice excuse to get out of the house and walk around town. There have been many times where I’ve thought I should just go home after that coffee, stopped into one last shop and found an amazing gem.
When you visit regularly, you start to get a feel for each shop and their pros and cons. One shop may be a bit more expensive than the rest, but they have a better calibre of stock. Another shop may be really cheap but only sell broken toys and a few strappy tops. Other shops may specialise in certain areas such as homeware or clothing. Every shop has its niche.
- Research Brand Labels and RRP (Recommended Retail Price)
Ask people about the benefits of charity shopping and one of the things they’ll say is that you can find decent brand names for a fraction of the price. This is true to an extent. People even make a living off of this fact through re-selling. However, the successful ones have done their research and know the market. they know which names sell, which names have a reputation for being high quality and weeding out the fakes.
Even if you aren’t a re-seller, you don’t want to miss an opportunity. An example of this is a recent purchase of mine, from one of my favourite charity shops, Mercy in Action. I spotted a box of six identical Dijon Yellow Le Creuset espresso mugs in their original box, selling for £8. I don’t drink espressos at home, nor do I have a yellow kitchen. But I knew that they are very popular and brand new, very expensive. I went and had a coffee and did my research for how well they are selling on eBay. I went back and bought them straight away.
- Be Thorough
You will find the greatest gems hidden amongst boxes, between rails, back of the shelf and it will take time. I would recommend setting aside a day to go on the hunt. It won’t be quick and it won’t be easy. You should go through every rail and scan every shelf because who knows what marvels you’ll find? Don’t be afraid to crouch down and rifle through stacks or stop and actually read the titles of the books. I rarely buy books brand new and always stop to read the shelves you never know if your next favourite is just sitting there, waiting.
- Be Honest With Yourself
If you’re like me and have hoarder tendencies, collecting items and clothes and crap because “you never know”, you’ll know it’s easy to trigger it in charity shops. You need to be honest with yourself and ask yourself, “do I need it?” “will it sell?” “will this bring anything to my life?” If you say no to any of those, you should put it back.
- Don’t Haggle
You’re in a charity shop, the clue’s in the title. If something’s broken, don’t buy it in the first place. You’re well within your consumer rights to return something if it becomes faulty etc. But if that happens, ask for shop credit, rather than your money back. I thought about this and asked myself, “what about the corporate charities, like Oxfam and the like, who won’t miss £2.99?” I quickly reminded myself with a stern mental talk about the fact that it wouldn’t hurt the charity per se, it would hurt the individual shop. That shop has targets to meet, expenditures and so on, that’s what haggles and refunds take away from.
- Give Back
We take charity and second-hand shops for granted. They’re just there and we know we can pop in and grab a bargain and experience that you wouldn’t find in other shops. What better and easier way to say thank you than by giving back? Whether that be by signing up as a volunteer or donating stock. Charity shops will be so grateful for anything that you give, time or stock and you’ll leave with swelling in your heart and a smile on your face.
So, there you have it. Do you have any more charity shop tips?
See you next time!