I’ve seen a few of my charity shop lovers complaining that their favourite second hand havens aren’t as cheap as they used to be. As far as they’re concerned, even their favourite charity shops are too expensive now. They’re not alone. I agree with them and on a few occasions I’ve even joined in with their moaning. Charity shops are one of my favourite places to be but I’d be lying if I said that price hikes weren’t frustrating.
On a recent charity shop adventure I spotted a bag for £15 that looked like the type of thing that you could find for cheaper in Primark, and a big green chair for £50 that had yellow stains on it and seemed to have come straight from a retirement home.
Today really took the piss though, as I stumbled upon this dress. Just look at the state of it. You can’t really tell in this photo, but not only had the red colour run into the fabric below, the armpits were pretty much blue! Even if you did want to take this unwearable monstrosity home, it’d cost you £5.99 to do so. Are they having a laugh? I don’t know if you could even upcycle this mess.
On my charity shop spree this morning I also spotted DVDs for £2.99 each and paperback books for £2.50 each.
I do feel bad criticising charities that are simply trying to raise money for good causes. Charity shops in the UK are now raising over £290m annually and in turn are providing significant benefits to their local areas. In total, 340,000 tonnes of textiles are diverted from landfill every year (which reduces UK carbon emissions by 7.4m tonnes), over 200,000 people gain volunteering opportunities and 17,000 gain paid jobs.
Why are charity shops so expensive?
In order to do all this good, it’s becoming more and more important for these charities to behave like ordinary businesses in order to survive. Charities are having to invest in marketing, social media, visual merchandising, and many are even having store refits in order to attract customers and increase turnover. All this comes at a cost.
After years of stick, charity shops are finally becoming cool, and in order to grow in popularity, these ‘chazzers’ *shudders* need to continue to appeal to a younger audience. Once upon a time charity shops were mostly frequented by those who couldn’t afford to shop anywhere else. However, as an increasing number of savvy shoppers and bargain hunters flock to charity shops to fill their wardrobes with vintage and unique finds, it appears that many of these stores are making the most of this by hiking up their prices. After all, vintage costs so much more on Brick Lane or in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, so really, I guess a sixties dress for a tenner isn’t the end of the world.
But upping the price of items is one thing, selling things at completely unrealistic prices is quite another. When someone makes a charity shop donation, they obviously want their donation to fetch a reasonable amount, but what’s the point in donating your entire DVD collection if they’re just going to sit there on a shelf for years because they’ve not been priced accordingly? Who really is going to pay 3 quid for Jurassic Park 3 when it’s on ITV2 every other week?
I know that charity shops don’t exist to satisfy bargain hunters. They’re there to raise money for worthy causes and help those in need. Let’s not forget that while most of the people we see on a typical charity shop visit are volunteers, each charity has thousands of staff members that work for them full time and need paying a decent wage just like the rest of us do.
Many are quick to criticise charity workers who take home enviable salaries, as if they don’t deserve the money. But without them charities would struggle. Gone are the days where charities are just, well, charity cases. They’re businesses now and in order for charity shops to succeed they need to behave like proper companies and constantly strive for progression and growth.
Barnardo’s came under fire recently after allegedly paying some lass off TOWIE £3,000 to advertise them on her Instagram account. I don’t think the girl in question should really have taken the money, since all she had to do was hold up a scruffy A4 sheet of paper and post the photo on Instagram, but we shouldn’t be criticising Barnardo’s for using some marketing skills. After all, although the rise in ‘charity shop chic’ may be partly responsible for higher prices, we need more people to buy second hand stuff.
I don’t completely know where I’m going with this rant and I certainly don’t have the answers. On the one hand, if charity shops stay cheap they’re wasting their best donations and failing to raise as much money as they possibly can for their cause. But on the other hand, if they continue to hike up their prices, they risk losing some of their most loyal customers. Potential customers who have not yet stepped foot in the door of a charity shop also have less incentive to give them a try if their USP has suddenly been snatched away.
As you can see, I’m somewhat sitting on the fence in this matter. I personally believe that charity shops should behave like businesses while making an effort to appeal to younger people, but I certainly don’t feel that this should be at the expense of the poor or the elderly, or even the thrifty shoppers like myself.
What do you think? Do you think charity shops are too expensive? Do you worry that they’re becoming too much like businesses or do you think that’s how it should be? Give me a shout over on Instagram.