Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Better late than never?

Yesterday, The Guardian Online reported that the charity Oxfam is set to launch six ‘super-saver’ discount stores in an attempt to combat losses in their retail division. It has been suggested that these shops will have block prices of £1, £2 and £3 to encourage customers to snap up more bargains and follows reports that across its 700 UK stores, the charity has seen a fall in sales of 3%.

It has been suggested that the fall in sales is due to a number of contributing factors:
1.     Charity shops are in competition with discount retailers such as Primark. ‘Fast fashion’ shows no signs of slowing down as the high street continues to promote cheap garments. If you can get something new for the same price, why would you buy something that previously belonged to someone else? In addition to this, retailers such as Aldi and Lidl now sell clothes making ‘charity shops look rather pricey’.
2.     The popularity of online shopping continues to grow. Charities simply cannot offer customers this on a large scale as items are usually one-off. Many charities do look to listing more expensive and rare items on auctions sites like eBay but this is time consuming and doesn’t result in a repeated sales.
3.     Donations are down so shops simply have less to sell. In line with the 3% drop in sales, Oxfam also reported a 2% drop in goods being donated. It has been suggested that this is due to people buying less clothing meaning they have less to donate.

No doubt all this is true but does Oxfam have other problems?

I get a lot of comments on Instagram and Twitter from people who are annoyed about the high prices in some charity shops in the UK and without a doubt, the main offender is Oxfam. I’d like to think that this news means the charity have some awareness of these attitudes but with new discount stores set to represent less than 1% of Oxfam’s retail outlets, how much change can we really expect to see? Understandably this will be a trial, and while I fully support it, will Oxfam’s bosses be able to get a true picture of how successful a reduction in prices across the board would be from figures from just six shops? Even if they do, how long could a pricing restructure take while sales continue to drop?

I’ve been noticing a few subtle changes in my most frequented Oxfam shops recently, which are Oxfam in Sale, Cheshire and the Emporium on Oldham Street in Central Manchester. Both now have sale rails for stock that has been out for a couple of weeks without selling where clothing is usually half the original marked price. In addition to this, high priced items being sectioned off. There seems to be more to appeal to the real bargain hunters amongst us. As a long-time charity bargain hunter, I sensed trouble.

I’ve never hidden how I feel about inflated prices and a number of months ago I posted about my shock to see the Manchester Oxfam Originals shop charging £100 for a coat. I also faced a few conflicting opinions on the usage of ‘boutique style’ shops. In light of this news, I’m really happy to see Oxfam move away from these and focus on providing cheaper clothing. I spoke a few months ago about who is the real customer base of the charity shop and I still strongly believe that it’s the people charity shops were intended for – those who need cheaper clothing. When the economy picks up and those charity shoppers who were just looking to save a few pennies can afford the high street again, charity shops won’t get a second look.

My concern is that Oxfam can’t undo their bad rep. One bad shopping experience can make or break a charity for a bargain hunter. Many people who contact me say they don’t bother to look in Oxfam anymore as they know the prices will not only put them off buying and item but will actually make them feel angry! Can six shops really undo that bad feeling and entice customers back in?

How do you feel about the proposed ‘super-saver shops’? If you’ve fallen out of love with Oxfam, would you be enticed back in with block prices?

Char x

You can read the original story at:


  1. It will be interesting to see if these shops do make a difference, a local oxfam near me was charging about £80 for a "Hermes" scarf I noticed the other day, some of the prices are just crazy and Oxfam do seem to be one of the higher priced shops. I think I would worry that the super saver shops just contained all the tat they couldn't sell; in my local branch the primark stuff is marked up at probably more than what it cost new! Xxxx

  2. I have had a bit of a love hate rekationship with Oxfam. I went off it a few years ago when I noticed the prices had sky rocketed but Ive found the one in Leicester and the one on queens road in Leicester have both had some really good quality bits lately for cheap. I do think though my favourite charity shops are the ones that just have a standard price, either the everything for one price or like dresses one price etc.