I often have the ‘where did you get that?’ conversation with people I meet. And invariably my answer has charity shop in the title. I’m always delighted to tell people the price I’ve paid and where I’ve purchased what I’m wearing in an effort to inspire them to consider a charity shop visit on their next big shopping trip.
The thing that interests me about that conversation is the way that the reaction and response has changed in the last few years. Once upon a time, my charity shop comment would have initiated surprise at first, and then a bit of confusion or even distaste! The humble charity shop was not previously considered a shopping destination. In fact, it was perceived to be full of other people’s junk, and the phrase second-hand elicited an awful lot of negativity. People didn’t want to wear things that had been owned and worn by others and didn’t associate charity shops with quality goods. They didn’t want to ‘hoke and poke’ through rails of randomly sized items and couldn’t see the gems for the junk!
But, I’m delighted to see this all changing. Now people are more likely to ask me which charity shops I like most and if they can come out for a bargain hunt with me some afternoon! It’s a radical change and I think there are a number of reasons for it:
1. Recession. When times are hard, we all think about where we can cut back and there has been a real resurgence in ‘making do and mending’, as well as finding a bargain on the high street. Shows like ‘Super Scrimpers’ on Channel 4 demonstrate how easy it is to buy quality for less than people expect. People are increasingly more likely to pop into a charity shop for a look. And let’s face it, there are more charity shops on the high street now than I’ve ever known.
2. The Vintage Effect. Many of us are vintage lovers-we appreciate quality clothes and furniture that have survived the decades and continue to make us happy today. This culture of seeing the good in older items and finding, reusing, refurbing and loving them has undoubtedly contributed to a wider acceptance of preloved or secondhand items.
3. Charity Shop Rebrand. Charities are finding it harder than ever to raise the much needed cash they need. As a result many are only too aware of the need to transform their retail business model to meet high street standards. Consequently, they are professionalising their shop windows, brightening up their shop floors, merchandising their stock according to seasonal trends and highlighting quality stock in-store. They are also stocking and marketing ‘new’ products to entice the unseasoned charity shop visitor through the front door.
4. The love of a ‘find’. A consumer backlash against ‘the norm’ is happening. Many of us are rebelling against the need to look the same, consume the same and live the same. Getting your hands on something unique, that only you have stumbled upon, can bring joy and excitement. It can provide a talking point with your friends, and even introduce you to a whole new community on social media. The charity shop provides an opportunity to have this experience.
But, whatever the reasons for this new found positivity towards charity shops, I’m glad. They provide an ethical shopping experience and enable us all to dress ourselves and our homes for less. They also support the work of some exceptional organisations. I for one am a very happy charity shop addict. Long may this newfound charity shop appeal reign!