Thursday, 31 December 2015

Is there still a stigma to buying your clothes in a charity shop?

When I was in high school, my mum would sometimes drag me into Aldi. I'd argue to stay in the car while she picked up the shopping for the week but on the occasions when those arguments proved futile, I'd wander around the store with my eyes firmly fixed to the floor for fear of seeing anyone I knew. Being seen in that store or turning up to school with an Aldi carrier bag made kids an easy target for the bullies in my school playground. Looking back on that, it's amazing to consider how the reputation of the chain has changed and developed over the past decade - discount food stores have undergone a complete re-branding.

For my final blog post of 2015, I wanted to consider whether the same has happened with charity shops so I took to Instagram this morning to we approach 2016, do you think there's still a stigma around buying clothes in charity shops?

Unanimously, you said there is but attitudes are changing.

scarletlady13 puts this down to 'the popularity of 'vintage' getting younger people involved in charity shopping' in addition to 'the standards in stores...getting better and better' and suggests that 'the high street look of stores will only encourage more people'.
Vintage, I wholeheartedly agree with. Vintage shops have become wise to their appeal to the mass market, particularly students with new loan installments burning a hole in their pockets! With that awareness came price hikes and I think shopping for vintage in charity shops became a good way to achieve an individual look without paying over the odds for it. I think when vintage sections are done well, they can really add value to a charity shop and give it a new market. Once you've got the customers through the door, it becomes easier to sell the idea of second hand which isn't vintage!
I also agree that across the board, standards in shops are generally improving. I can remember going into shops a few years ago and the majority of the stuff would look tired with discolouration or other damage. Charities have definitely become wise to the quality customers want and I rarely see anything with even the slightest hint of bobbling anymore. Charities have to compete directly with low-cost fast-fashion retailers and the only way to win that is to give people who rosecottage says 'would rather buy cheap and nasty (but new)' excellent quality in their second hand.
For me, the jury is still out on how far new layouts, shop fittings and store presentation can go in overturning stigma. Cancer Research may share the same hangers and rails as Topshop but we all know it's not Topshop! I think that for some people, the reputation of the humble charity shop is set and no amount of glitzy displays or posh shop fittings is going to overturn that. I'd be interested to know if anyone was drawn in by the new look charity shops and was converted?

2ndhandstylequeen puts the change in attitudes down to charity shops having developed over the years into 'vibrant income generators and in many cases really attractive go-to destinations'.
I have to say, I think Mary Portas did a lot for the reputation of the charity shop in her television programme documenting the overhaul of a Save the Children shop in Orpington and her continued collaboration with the charity has created some beautiful spaces and I'd argue that she really led the way for the types of rebranding scarletlady13 was referring to.
In addition to that, charities have been making better use of the Internet and social media. Shopping online is so popular these days and people have become accustomed to being able to purchase whatever they want at the click of a button. Instagram allows charities to showcase their wares to thousands of people in an instant and even if we can't all dash into that store and pick up that item, it gives people a good idea as to the types of stock the charity has. The amount of bloggers documenting their charity shop purchases has also increased and blogs like The Thrift from Barnardo's make really interesting reading.

tildyteacake mentions Oxfam's collaboration with M&S having 'helped some people who might not have ventured into a charity shop to buy clothes before feel more comfortable about doing so'.
Charities have definitely used more well-renowned retailers to further their cause. My favorite example of this has to be the Encore range at British Red Cross which stocks end of the line products from H&M and Cos. Again, it's all about getting people through the door. If customers know they can get a brand new, just out of store Cos ring for a fraction of the cost they might go in the shop, regardless of their preconceived ideas - once they're in, the good quality donations can do the talking.
Another fantastic example of a charity using well known retailers to increase sales (and I can't believe I'm giving all you Manchester lot this tip off again!) is The Lighthouse Charity Shop in Withington which stocks brand new Missguided clothing and shoes. I go there specifically to look at what has been delivered from the mystical Missguided Manchester warehouse and find myself buying a whole host of other bits! There's always a number of young girls shopping in there purely for the Missguided stuff but isn't that what successful retail is about? Giving the customer what they want!
I think these factors have gone some of the way to bringing the charity shop into the modern day and made them meaningful to a younger audience.

However, cissyclogs argues that 'the stigma is alive for sure, with people telling me it is embarrassing to shop second hand' and JennyLou77 saying 'some people physically recoil when I tell them an item is second hand'.
I guess we can't convince them all! And would we want to...there'd be less for us to buy?!
I get it, I really do. I can understand why people are weird about adopting an item of clothing that has been on the body of someone you don't know, perhaps multiple times. Even the most committed of charity shop lovers draw the line somewhere - my mum, who taught me all I know about charity shops, is still reluctant to buy a second hand shoe and if she does, she can be seen cleaning the inside of it with a wet wipe and potentially, a bottle of bleach. Shoes, underwear, bedding - where do you draw the line?
I think it's normal to want something that is just your own. But I would guess that the majority of items in a charity shop have touched less bodies than a dress you try on in Urban Outfitters.

I just wanted to finish with something from faracharityshops. Here's hoping 'more people will cotton on to what a good, if not vital, thing thrifting is in this day and age. It's green, conscientious, benevolent and most of all rewarding for any genuine lover of the unusual'. 

2015 has been a great year in my charity shop life and it's been a real pleasure to share that journey. I hope 2016 yields some incredible bargains for all you second hand lovers. Happy New Year :) x


  1. I don't like the move to more boutique charity shops. I buy a lot in charity shops and I also give a lot to them. For me it is just as important that someone struggling with very little money gets a bargain as well as the charity itself making some money. For this reason I hate the up-marketing of charity shops as their prices tend to go up as well. Several near me charge what I can only describe as ridiculous prices - Cancer Research and Oxfam being the main offenders. I recently tried on a pair of very well worn ankle boots thinking they were priced at £8 when in fact they were priced at £80 pounds! Also very worn coats etc priced at £50 just because they are from Whistles etc. I refuse to give to those charities any more. It's also noticeable that they generally contain fewer customers than the shops with a better pricing policy.

  2. Excellent post, Charlotte. Somehow, I missed this one. There's a new charity shop on Allerton Road which is fantastic, it's a boutique but the prices are reasonable. I've been in some and they charge a ridiculous amount for a label. As long as we have a good mix of second hand outlets, I think there's something for everyone. For those who attach a stigma to second hand, I wish I could afford to buy new everything!