When I tell people I’m from Harrogate, a common reaction is, “oh that’s why you don’t have a northern accent” or “Ahh posh north.” I’ve even heard some people refer to it as “the Paris of the north” but I think that’s stretching it a bit (even though I do love the coloured twinkly lights). So, it’s safe to say there’s a bit of money in this place but we are thrifty northerners too so we love a bargain. Hence I like to think we have some pretty good charity shops here. Sadly they’re not the cheapest and many shops have undergone the Mary Portas treatment with a hike in prices to match but there are still some rich pickings to be had. If you’re planning a thrifting trip to Harrogate, here’s my handy guide. Firstly, parking can be tricky so I’d recommend you take a train or bus if you can, particularly as both stations are situated right in the centre of town and close to the main charity shopping boulevard. Most of the charity shops are conveniently located on two adjoining streets – huzzah!
Head for Beulah Street, a pedestrianised road that runs adjacent to the bus station and leads on to Commercial Street. This route is your Rodeo Drive or Champs Elysee of Harrogate charity shopping, if you will. See this map for reference. At the top of Beulah Street, you’ll find Barnado’s and Cancer Research. Both have laminate floors (say no more) but hold a decent range of stock and are fairly priced in the main. I once picked up a lovely set of pomanders and a vintage shirt for the mister. A few doors down on the left is British Heart Foundation. I always find this shop a bit cramped but then I do barge in with a pushchair. It’s good for a rummage and has nice accessories. Not as cheap as it should be (sigh).
Close by is a fairly new addition to the ranks; a Quit charity shop. It is the grungiest of the lot (think jumble sale) but is by far the cheapest. If there’s a bargain to be had it’s here but you have to search for it. Last on this street is the Mind shop. It’s small, overpriced and (clearly) in need of stock BUT as with any charity shop, you never know… Cross over Cheltenham Parade straight onto Commercial Street. This is a great little road full of independent shops including a fab cheesemongers and a couple of haberdashery shops. It’s also home to a few more charity shops on either side. First on the left is Shelter. I recently got my fingers burned here due to their no returns policy and I don’t like the way it sells tacky, plasticky, new merchandise such as pet accessories (*hurls) BUT it does sell a lot of M&S samples at reasonable prices and I once picked up two beautiful vintage teacups here. Next door is Age UK. This shop always has good stock including lots of decent clothes and a great range of shoes and handbags. There’s also a great bric-a-brac section, squirreled away in a back room, which shouldn’t be overlooked.
Over the road on the right hand side used to be a branch of Sue Ryder and one of the better charity shops (smelly carpet: great bargains including a pair of vintage brogues for £4). It’s recently changed hands (sob) and will be a craft shop so I am slightly appeased (but not much). Last but not least is the Save the Children. This has been here for years and is still quite an old school shop run by some lovely old volunteers. It has resisted a complete makeover but recently introduced a ‘Special Rail’ with selected designer/vintage items. For some this might be helpful, for me it spoils the fun. The staff here are very keen to get the most money for the charity (I eavesdropped a whole conversation along these lines) so expect prices to reflect this. That said, they have high standards and only put out quality clothes and labels (they detest lots of donations of Atmosphere! – also overheard). After all that thrifting you’ll be glad of a cup of tea and a sit down. Of course I could mention Betty’s but you don’t really want to schlep all the way to the other side of town to queue so I’d recommend a small independent café called Bean & Bud, situated on Commercial Street itself. As the name suggests, this place sells a great selection of tea and coffee varieties plus cakes and sandwiches. The staff are nice and knowledgeable too so all in all it’s a great place to fuel up and consider your purchases.