Buying tips: charity shops

I love buying things from charity shops, for two reasons.

  1. The money goes to the cause
  2. No two shops will carry the same stock, so you’ve got plenty of choice.  You can now go shopping properly in your local high street, even if you’ve only got a couple of high street brands!

Fifteen or so years ago charity shops tended to just be full of ‘old lady clothes’ – in other words, they seemed to be stocked almost exclusively with clothes that your grandmother and grandfather would wear, and very little else.

Now though, with the rise in ‘fast fashion’, people are buying new clothes, wearing once or twice, then consigning to the charity shops.  The upshot of this is that more of the stock is hardly worn and considerably more fashionable than it ever used to.

Here are my tips for a successful shopping trip in you local charity shops.

  • Give yourself plenty of time

Charity shops don’t carry several items in lots of sizes, so it takes a little longer to have a proper route through to see if there’s anything you fancy.

  • Learn the layout

Most charity shops adopt the same merchandising principle – by clothing type (e.g. blouses, dresses) and then by size.  Often the hangers will have size cubes to help you identify what might be right for you.  This makes shopping less daunting, as it’s helping to edit your choices.

  • There’s often a curated ‘vintage’ area

Many of the shops have pulled together their more ‘vintage’ looking pieces, into a separate area – which is always worth a glance.  This could include anything – blouses, knitwear, shoes and bags, as well as tea dresses and sometimes party wear.

  • Try them for your party outfits

As we approach summer wedding season, Christmas, New Year and any other major events, often the shops will pull together a selection of outfits, accessories and shoes which could be worn for an occasion.  You’d be surprised how many fancy ball gowns, expensive dresses (I’m thinking Coast, Monsoon etc) and glamorous vintage tops (the kind covered with sequins) you can find at the right time of year – already gathered together for you to select from, at a fraction of their original cost.  A few years ago I had been eyeing up an amazing black and cream silk prom dress in Monsoon, which was £110 brand new.  They didn’t have my size in the sale, so I resigned myself to the fact I wouldn’t own it.  Then about three months later I found it for £15 in our local Salvation Army, in my size!  (Unfortunately, when I tried it on I found I needed the smaller size and had to leave it behind – but that’s life.)

  • Don’t forget accessories in the till point counter

There could be some absolute beauties in the accessories case which often doubles as a till point.

Those are my tips for a successful shopping trip round your local charity shops.  Got any more?  Let me know in the comments.


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