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fashion, visual arts

Charity shopping

charity shop

My love of charity shops started as a child, when my twin and I would follow our gran through hordes of toys and books. The years passed, as did my gran, but the love remained. As my twin moved away first to Aberdeen, then to London she found comfort in their thrift shops; different yet constant.

Now, whenever I visit her, our home town or a new one I search these havens. I marvel at the vintage clothes, home- made items, retro books and board games.

Over the years my twin and I have found bargains to fill home and heart. Here are some of the best:

  • An entire J&G Meakin retro coffee set (around £20 from various Scottish charity shops; pictured above)
  • A Readers Digest paperback guide to crafts (50p from Duke Street PDSA)
  • Cross stitched framed landscapes (averaging at £2 per item in various Aberdeen charity shops)
  • A Warehouse work dress and jacket suit (£10 from Aberdeen’s British Heart Foundation)
  • A Reiss blue cocktail dress (£20 from Queen Street’s Cancer Research shop)
  • A Hobbs black batwing jumper (£2.75 from Duke Street Prince and Princes of Wales Charity Shop)
  • The Game of Life board game (£2 from Cumbernauld’s Salvation Army)

With these bargains I have picked up charity shop etiquette. For instance:

  • Bring cash: although most shops have card machines, some only deal in cash.
  • Never ask for discount: unlike ‘vintage’ or ‘second hand shops’ charity shops are non-profit, meaning after bills their proceeds go to the third sector.
  • Be nice to the staff: most of the staff are volunteers, so they are unpaid for their time.
  • Clean items before use: volunteers do their best to prep items, but if you are buying clothes or furnishings a wash will make them feel your own.
  • Give something back: shops need donations to keep thrifting alive.

If you are not convinced it’s worth the effort then consider this: charity shops raise more than £290m every year; they encourage recycling, keep high streets alive and offer work experience as a step into employment.

Duke Street Shelter shop volunteer, Kareen Robertson, said: “We have a lot of young people both working here and shopping here.

Shoppers are moving away from the idea that charity shops are just for old people; now they are becoming more fashionable.”

Epitomising this trend, Shelter (Duke Street) opened its doors in 2013 with an interior of chrome, glass, white paint, mirrored walls and two fitting rooms.

Ms Robertson said: “This shop fairly new, but it is considered one of the best on the street. Customers say that it doesn’t even feel like a charity shop (although all the proceeds do go to Shelter).”

She added: “Shops like this are a great place to source vintage clothes and unusual pieces. Sometimes you can find things here that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Echoing this sentiment is Duke Street Prince and Princes of Wales Charity Shop volunteer, Pat Hendry.

She said: “It doesn’t matter what people bring in, someone will buy it. We had a horses’ saddle donated the other day and we managed to find it a new home.”

 “We have people coming in looking for eclectic things; a while ago we had a lady  – who does acting – looking at the pound rail and she bought a fancy top with orange, greens and blues; it was horrible but it suited the play she was doing.”

Ms Hendry noted that her most popular items were designer clothes, but that vinyl records were also becoming popular again.

She concluded: “The prices in here are very low, so people are happy to get a bargain. But people are also more socially –minded and want to help out charities.”

To find a charity shop near you visit Charity Retail’s shop locator.

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