Over the weekend I made and published a in which I expressed my displeasure at charity shops charging large amounts of money for Primark and supermarket clothing. When I tweeted about my video a debate argument followed in which it was argued that charities should be able to charge what they want because it is for charity and my wanting a bargain is uncharitable. This displeased me. Greatly. But let’s move on from that particular exchange. I used to shop in charity shops multiple times a week, sometimes even daily.
I liked that –
1. I could save money.
2. Buy second hand and not clog up the planet with excess items.
3. Support a charity whilst doing the first 2.
However over the last year or so I’ve stepped back a little because the prices have increased at a rate incomparable to the high street. Many people I talk to via this blog or Twitter are stepping away from charity shops because they’ve changed so much lately. Yes, the charities deserve to make money for their cause that is afterall what they are there for, however traditionally they are a source of well priced clothes for people in need/who want to pay less. These people kept the charties afloat for many a year so they’re a tad mystified that things have changed almost over night. To find, as I have many times, clothes that I’ve seen in Primark for around £8 marked up at £15+ in charity shops makes my teeth grind and scrape together, which isn’t good because I already have appauling teeth. Some people might say that the shop is there as funding for charity and they don’t mind paying that little bit large chunk extra because it goes to the charity but many more of us find ourselves walking away from the charity shop knowing we can buy the same item new – without the make up and arm pit stains – elsewhere.
Those of us who shop in the charity shops on a regular basis and buy a large majority of our clothes, furniture and homeware in them, the bread and butter customers, are annoyed but even more so are those people who could be tipped over into being regular charity shop shoppers but now won’t be. Over the weekend a lot of people told me that they’ve been into charity shops to buy something fancy dress for halloween or Christmas and thought it might, after reading my blog, tip them over into charity shop lovers. However many vowed never to return because plain (SECOND HAND) H&M t-shirts were priced at £10 or George at Asda dresses, as lovely as they are were £16. Potential customers, willing to love charity shops, willing to put money in the hands of these charities have been driven away. Keeping people coming back on a regular basis is surely key to raising the most amount of money? Leaving shoppers feeling ripped off – and yes I think you can feel ripped off in a charity shop without being uncharitable – will not see shoppers return time and again – to be charitable. If someone is kind enough to donate a Chanel hand bag of course they should sell it for an appropriate price, of course. I believe some of the larger charity shops even train their staff to spot antiques and designer labels. Maybe they should teach them that Florence and Fred, Tu and Atmosphere labelled clothes are from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Primark respectively and should be labelled and priced accordingly not as ‘vintage’ whatever that means nowadays.
Many charity shops are trying to brand themselves as part of the regular high street fashion retail pack, so can they really justify charging £17 for a second hand dress when the same dress is retailing at £12 brand new three stores down? A proper high street shop knows their market, knows their customer – if a charity shop wants to be seen in the same light the first thing they have to do is get to know their customer. We’re not out to swindle a charity but we’re not out to be swindled by a charity. We’re trying to buy second hand items at a price which suits a charity and doesn’t in the process alienate us. Forever. Another side that I’ve heard a lot of people mention is that they’d usually give their clothes to a charity shop when they’ve finished with them but because they’ve seen their donations over priced in store they’ve started selling them at bootsales or just plain old slinging them into landfil.
Ulitmately, I want charities to make as much money as they can from their charity shops and I understand they have overheads. However I don’t believe they can keep their current customers and attract newer customers into their shops if people know they can get an item newer elsewhere. Not everyone is eco savvy and not everyone can afford to keep charity in the forefront of their mind. People on a lower income need to buy clothes, lots would like to buy from a charity shop and support a charity in doing so but if they can buy more or less the same item cheaper elsewhere then they’ll go elsewhere. As you can probably tell I could rant on and on about this all day but I shall leave it here for now and request your input with the questions below. Is expecting a bargain in a charity shop uncharitable? Should charities be able to charge what they like in the name of charity? I’d love to hear your throughts.