Charity shops- not cheap as chips

31 December 2013

clothes shopIt’s the end of 2013. Some may be celebrating to see the back of the old year, others may be hoping for a better 2014. Either way, the dragging-on of this latest recession, coupled with the ever-rising cost of living has meant more and more of us are looking for ways to save a few pounds. Just don’t include  your local charity shop in your money-saving hit list.

Charity shops are a staple of our high streets- with more than 10,000 of them up and down the country, an increase of 10% on last year, they may be the only thing saving many smaller shopping streets. However, cost of living increases seem to be also invading our charity shops, so much so, that some people have started calling charity shops ‘greedy’ for charging too much for their goods.

Charity shops have always been a slight retail-anomaly – while trying to raise money for their respective charities, there was always an implicit charitable purpose within the act of selling second hand stuff to people who couldn’t afford new. Both the charity and the empoverished shopper benefitted. But with more and more people shopping at charity shops, how can shop managers tell between those who are genuinely in dire straits, and those merely looking for a bargain?

Oxfam is one of those most criticised for pricing their items highly, with various examples of items retailing for hundreds of pounds, particularly in London stores.  Ian Matthews, Oxfam's head of retail, told The Guardian:

"The public kindly donates stock to Oxfam and we believe the best way to thank our donors is to get the best price we can, which in turn raises as much money as possible for Oxfam's work. All our shop managers have the flexibility to set their own prices, using their judgment and some guidance, to decide what prices and products will best suit customers in their location."

And who wouldn’t expect prices to be more expensive in London, particularly where donations include designer names and labels, and even binbags from the Beckham household? But customers are complaining that they are being priced out – and not just for designer labels. Modupe Tijani, 59, a carer from London, said she often sees clothing from Primark being sold at higher prices than it cost brand new. "It's not supposed to be like this," she said.

If ‘ordinary’ people are finding themselves too poor to shop at charity shops, heaven help the genuinely poor. And if shops are purely serving bargain hunters, or dealers looking to turn a quick profit at the charity’s expense, shouldn’t they charge as much as possible?

So what do you think? Would you consider shopping second-hand if it was the only way to afford that must-have designer item? Have you been a charity shopper in 2013 and have noticed prices increasing? Isn’t this just the way of the world?

12 comments

  • Angry S.
    Guess what, there's no such thing as a "must-have designer item", unless of course you're a moron in which case I hope they fleece you for every penny you have.
  • Han S.
    Could always not buy it
  • Horny I.
    Angry: I see what you did there! Fleece! Do you write for BW?
  • Kevin
    With their good books they do sell them online, somethings would be better off sold that way than in the shops. The Primark issue is very obvious and very odd considering that in Cambridge the charity shops are virtually opposite Primark! Why would anyone pay more? Fagin: often they can't change the prices, they have set levels for each thing these days. Oxfam certainly does. It's now charging more for second hand clothes as they don't refer to them as that anymore, it's 'classic' clothing etc.
  • Alexis
    If they weren't turning a profit, they'd drop the prices. Evidentially people are buying these clothes from this branch
  • Warwick H.
    Have you ever looked at the accounts of these "charites" to see what their execs are paid and the benefits they get ? yet pay the people who run these shops nowt.British Heart Foundation are the biggest exploiters of the young unemployed. We no longer give to these places, we take ours to the local clothes bank and the local hospice.
  • Dan
    As a volunteer how can you be exploited by being paid 'nowt'? If you are being exploited and not being paid then I suggest volunteering elsewhere.
  • Mike O.
    I wouldn't do voluntary work if you paid me.
  • Daisy D.
    Big charities = Big Business. The RSPCA is one of the worst. I only ever donate to local and small charities who are often far more ethical.
  • shiftynifty
    Uh..Uh..Charidee...fugging chuggers...actually there is a BHF near me and I do buy odd the thing...but seriously pricing has to be looked at, and delivery costs
  • Tim
    It depends where you are. Just this week I bought a suit, 2 pairs of jeans, a jumper and 2 leather jackets for £14 total from a charity shop near me.
  • Tim
    Dan - BHF use the government workfare program. i.e. their 'volunteers' are often not actually volunteers, but are there under threat of loss of benefits if they don't attend.

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