I’ve been asked to write a charity shopping post for a while – I’m into my second hand shopping more than anyone and love the thrill of never knowing what you’re going to find! Charity shopping can be frustrating and overwhelming for those who don’t know how best to approach it, so I’ve put together a few of my tips for anyone looking to score a special find and get the best value for your ££ amongst the Primark and polyester blouses.
Know where to shop! Some shops constantly have good items in stock whilst others have nothing but rubbish. Choose your area or town carefully – more affluent neighbourhoods bring the wealthiest donators and are therefore more likely to stock designer labels and American/foreign brands (nothing better than finding unexpected Betsey Johnson, Tommy Hilfiger & good quality Abercrombie where you least expect it). Some charities are more popular than others for donations – I find cancer charities always have plenty of new stock in all the time as everyone is affected by it somehow, as well as Barnardos and Salvation Army. Visit charity shops all over town on a regular basis to find out where you tend to get the best deals in your area.
Know when to shop! Find out when donations are put out and what times & days you’re more likely to find new stock. I prefer to go late morning, as employees at local businesses tend to peruse the charity shops during their lunch breaks and donations seem to be put out earlier in the morning, so I’m more likely to get to the good items before anyone else. Mondays and Tuesdays are my favourite days to go since most people donate at the weekends, although I still stop by again during the week or on a Saturday if I have time.
Check out your item before buying. There’s nothing worse than getting a gorgeous dress for £10 then going home to find out it doesn’t fit, or there are nasty armpit stains you didn’t see in the shop. Is the damage something you could wash out or sew up? If it’s not labelled ‘as seen’, show the staff the damage and ask for a discount if the price is otherwise too steep – cheeky but sometimes necessary. Some charity shops offer returns, however it’s so important to check pieces before handing over your money. Check for stains, holes & other problems all over and try it on before buying if you can – I’ve bought too many supposed lovely items then notice an impossible stain or moth hole after I’ve left. If you’ve found what looks like a designer piece, check tips on sites such as The Purse Forum before overpaying for a fake.
Be skeptical of the ‘designer’ and ‘vintage’ rail. If employees are web-savvy enough, they may have checked prices of supposed designer pieces on Ebay before selling, making your supposed second-hand bargain not that much of a bargain at all. It does annoy me when pieces with high-end labels have their price jacked up so much that I might as well buy it new from the brand’s own store, but then again it does generate money for the charity as someone else will eventually buy it. Yesterday I found a cute Orla Kiely jacket; shame it was priced at £70! Similarly, don’t overpay for ‘vintage’ items that are poor quality or heavily worn, it’s crazy what passes for ‘vintage’ these days!
Make friends with staff. All charity shop employees I’ve met have been lovely, friendly and helpful. If you make the effort to say hi and chat with them every time you see the same faces, they might be nice enough to tip you off on any new items in stock that you might be interested in, or ones that haven’t been put out yet. And it’s nice to make new friends, of course.
Some days I return from charity shopping with a bag full of great pieces; other days I return empty handed. Half the fun is the mystery of not knowing what lovely piece you might find, as opposed to shopping at Topshop when everything they have in store and more is online anyway.
What’s the best thing you’ve found in a charity shop? I got a Betsey Johnson dress the other day, a gorgeous Abercrombie cardigan that looks brand new (and our new washing machine promptly shredded..!) and a Hermés scarf for £3 that turned out to be fake but is pure silk and still looks divine with my faux leather jacket!