Sunday, 8 February 2015

In support of smaller charities/end of an era.

On Wednesday, I was having a browse in Age UK in Sale and was told the shop is to close at the end of February. 

To give a bit of background, I used to be the manager of one of the charity shops in Sale. My first experience of Age UK was before my old shop opened when me and some of the volunteers went to have a nosy around our soon-to-be competitors. I thought 'this shop is tiny and it's a shame everything is squished'. Over the ten months I was in charge at the shop, I built up relationships with the other shop managers in the area (swapping money when the banks were closed, helping each other bring donations in etc) and of all the shops on Sale high street, I by far had the best relationship with the staff and volunteers in Age UK. 

Since leaving the charity sector at the end of 2013, I'd say I still call into Age UK at least once a week - sometimes it's a lot more often. I donate all my clothes there and my only Gift Aid membership is with them and that's not at all because I believe their cause is the greatest (I have no idea how they help older people) - it's because they've remained fair with prices and because the people in there are a joy to talk to.
I shouldn't've judged the book by its cover - the shop may be small and short on floor space but the stock is good and the people are kind and interested in their customers. That's rare and it should count for something. 

I'm devastated the shop is to close. Part of my devastation is based on my friendship with the staff and I'm sad that they have to find new jobs after putting so much of their time and energy into the shop. It breaks my heart that a shop that has been part of the community for so long will soon cease to exist. 

The big players in the charity sector do a lot of harm to the smaller shops - they simply can't compete with rental prices for better premises, more eye-catching advertising, paying their Sales Assistants in some cases (anyone who's from or been to Sale will know which charity I'm referring to!). 
But to me, that's forgetting what charity really is. These shops started as something for the community and that's been lost. It's not charitable to force smaller shops out of business. It's not charitable that those staff members lose their livelihood. Each of these charities started with someone who had an idea about making life better for other people - be they old people or people with disabilities or people with life threatening diseases. That's been clouded by a drive to make more and more profit which at the end of the day, mainly goes towards paying the six-figure salaries of those at the top. 

I had a message on Instagram earlier from a girl called Cherelle saying she had a lot of clothes to donate. She asked me which charity she thought I should donate it to as she's 'all for charity but it seems some charity shops aren't'. She's absolutely right and I hope more people give that some thought.

Why do most people shop in charity shops? Because they want something nice for cheap. It's just a convenient by-product that the money might go to helping someone. 

There's nothing wrong with wanting a bargain - all I hope to get across is don't dismiss a shop because it doesn't have gleaming white floors or attractive shop fittings or it's a local charity and you haven't heard of them before because they don't have TV adverts. They need your support all the more because of it and I can almost guarantee they'll appreciate that donation or that purchase all the more.

Age UK will close at the end of February and the staff might walk away with no job to go to after dedicating years of their life to raising money to help others. For me, charity shops make UK high streets what they are. Volunteering in these shops changes the lives of thousands of people each year. I don't want to look around in a few years time to find the big charities are all that remain.

Any thoughts?

Char x


  1. My first ever job was as a charity shop volunteer and I learnt so much. To this day the chazzers I love the best are the ones supporting a charity I've barely heard of, maybe a local one, usually a proper jumble of bits and pieces in a run down shop. I always find the best things in those ones and they are always great prices. Nothing against the bigger chains of chazzers, but I am frustrated when I see primark stock marked up as more expensive than it was in the store! I saw a Cos dress in a well known charity shop today, marked at £25 when everything on the rest of the rail was around a fiver, my first thought was, don't be greedy just because someone's typed that brand into eBay; price according to your market and you'll get return custom and build a loyal base. There are chazzers I avoid even bothering to look in because I know they are too expensive. This is such a great post, so well written and I completely agree, the smaller shops are getting edged out of locations they've inhabited for a long time as other, bigger chazzers take over. Xx

    1. I noticed this recently in Oxfam! I often buy things from there and usually spot some great finds, but £6 for a Primark dress that was unlikely to be more than a tenner originally. Hell no.

  2. Thanks Amie. Totally agree about the tiny, run down shops which resemble jumble sales being the best. There's this little one in a place called Hyde in Manchester which raises money for a local animal charity. Most of the stock is outside in uneven piles (in all weathers) and all the clothing is basically £2 regardless of what it is.
    So true about Primark stock. I saw these black boots at weekend in one of the bigger charity chazzers - they were nice and everything but £6.95 for Primark boots. I could get a new pair in store now for £10.
    I took my boyfriend out with me at weekend and he was shocked as to how much of a mark up there can be on unworn items which is something you're really pushed to do as a manager in a shop. Similar to the Cos thing...are you really going to get that price? People who only want higher end will buy new and people who shop in chazzers clearly don't care if something has been worn a few times! That's the nature of it!
    I'm the same - some chazzers I won't even entertain as I know the prices will just make me angry. Another by-product of the shops is to raise awareness for the charity they're supporting. Over-pricing creates bad feeling, it's really bad PR.
    Rant over! I'm glad you enjoyed the post and I'm really glad I started blogging again :) x

  3. I feel the same. I go to lots of charity shops in Fulham and over the last two years the prices keep going up. Cancer research is a brilliant charity but they charge so much in their charity shops that I've just stopped going in now. I noticed after their refurbishment of the fulham store the other three on the same road put their prices up to match. It's such a shame!

  4. That's such a shame about the shop! Personally I much prefer the charity shops where everything is higgledy-piggledy, there's much more chance of rummaging around and finding something magical (there's one shop in Holyhead on Anglesey where I've been known to spend over an hour browsing and chatting to staff, there's just so much stuff in there, they even have clothes hanging from the ceiling).
    The shops where it's all polished and shiny tend to be much less interesting and quite often overpriced, just like Amie and Charlotte above, I've got no problem paying a high price but when you see some certain chains charging more than what the item would've cost new, well, it just makes you not bother shopping there anymore! xx

  5. Lauren - What are charity shop prices in London like in general? I used to be in London every weekend and lived there for a bit but that was years ago. It's a shame the prices put customers off the whole charity as areas definitely differ. CR shops used to be really expensive up here too but they seem to have reduced a bit.

    Louisa - That shop in Anglesey sounds amazing! Is it a local charity?
    I think it's a common problem across the UK really. I think charities took advantage of the recession when people started shopping in them more and now people have a little bit more money and they see the expensive prices, will just go back to the lower end of the high street where they can get something new for the same price.

    1. Yep, I think so, on the window it says 'support your local charity' but I'm not sure exactly which one it's supporting - the shop is called 'The A Team' - well worth a look if you've ever over that way. I'm up there at Easter this year and I'm going to try and get some pics to write a blog post about it :-) xx

    2. Charity shop mystery! I look forward to it if you manage to find anything!x

  6. Despite living at my parents' house in Sale half of the week, I don't often get chance to pop into Age UK and other Sale charity shops as I tend to be in Fallowfield at the weekend (at least on a positive it's a short walk from Withington, another fave) Thankfully I'm in Sale this Saturday though so will pay Age UK a fairwell visit! :'( hope I can snap up the best bits before you do ;P still desperate to find a nice coat!

    1. Withington is definitely in my top 5 destinations. Called there last on Monday and one of the Age UK shops was closing (at 4) - I was devastated.
      Haha, you can try! It's looking pretty empty now to be honest. Let me know if Sale gifts you anything nice!