Charity Shops, 7 Tips to help you find those hidden gems

Blonde Hair Girl in Pink Jumper. Outfit from Charity Shops.

Photography: Gemma Jamieson
Location: Newcastle University Library

I have a new found love for charity shops and in 2019 I’m trying to not buy from the high street unless it’s necessary (click here to read why). I’m lucky that in Newcastle there are quite a few charity shops and even within walking distance of me I have 2 charity shops. I will say I wasn’t always into charity shops. I remember as a teenager thinking it was the most uncool thing to do but since thinking about my spending habits and how my spending habits are having an impact on the planet I decided to give it a go.

What is a Charity Shop?

There are around 10,500 charity shops all across the UK (but only fills 4% of the high street) and if you’re lucky and live in America you have most likely have 20 times the amount that we do. I think I’m right in thinking we all love shopping and what the high street thrive on is our love for shopping so what stops us from shopping in charity shops? You might have arrived on this post and be thinking what even is a charity shop?

A shop/store that sells clothes and other goods given by people to raise money for a charity

Quote from Oxford Learners Dictionaries

Most charity shops are supporting either a local small charity (e.g your local hospice, local children charity) or supporting the National charities (e.g Marie Curie, The British Heart Foundation). What these shops sell can totally vary as well, you have the likes of Oxfam who have stand alone bookshops, you have The British Heart foundation who have stand alone homeware and furniture stores. Then you have what I would called your general charity shop which you might find on your local high street or in your village which sells books, DVD, clothes and games. These are the stores I think most people shop at and are the ones that most people will see and maybe shop in the most.

Why should we shop at charity Shops?

There are a number of people are shopping in charity shops and all reasons are great reasons. supporting your local charity shop is important for these charities to survive. Below are 4 reasons why you should support your local charity stops.

  • Save Money: It’s somewhere that you can shop and potentially get a bargain. If your having a bit of a tight month then shopping at charity shops can be great because you can bag a full outfit for the price of one item in most high street stores.
  • Supporting: I think most people want to support all the charities they can but its not feasible for everyone so shopping at your local charity shops means your getting to support that charity without having to set up a direct debit or having to worry about that payment coming out of your bank every month.
  •  Environment: We hear about it all the time about how the planet is slowly dying due to our habits so a lot of people might give up buying clothing or they might want just buy brand new less often so that’s where charity shops come into it. 
  • Volunteers: One of the biggest things that charity shops do is support people into employment, they are the places that a lot of retail assistant would have started out with and they support the people who might stuggle to get into employment (e.g people who learning disabilities, people who may have been in prison or people who struggle with working full time hours)

By making the effort to buy the majority of my clothing second-hand I’m already reducing the amount of damage I could be doing to the planet.

Quote by Alice from Alice’s Wonder Emporium

Below I’ve put together 7 tips that I think might help with you if you’re brand new to charity shopping or even if you’re a veteran when it come to shopping in charity shops you might learn something new. These are mainly aimed at clothing items but I would say some of these tips can be taken into account when buying other items including furniture, children’s toys and books.

Girl in Pink Jumper, Blue Skirt. Outfit from Charity Shops

Tips for shopping in Charity Shops

  • Look for quality: When we talk about quality we aren’t talking just about what brands you can find we are talking about does the item look and feel like you’re going to get a good amount of wear out of it. Remember just because that coat you’ve found might be from Topshop doesn’t mean that it is worth buying. You wouldn’t buy a coat that wasn’t looking in good condition on the high street and that is the same for charity shops. You can expect a bit of wear but if something is falling apart don’t buy it.
  • Charity shops aren’t just full of Primark: Charity shops have been known for being full of rubbish and maybe just cheap clothing that someone doesn’t want. This is definitely not true, I think because more people are thinking about how they get rid of clothes that they are heading to charity shops to give there clothes rather then letting it go into landfill. Alice from Alice’s Wonder Emporium talked about how she managed to get some amazing on trend pieces in charity shops before, she’d even found things brand new with their tags still on for a fraction of the original price. You’re maybe not going to find the high end brands in your local store regularly but you might find lots of Zara, Topshop and other decent quality high street brands.
  • Start with basics: This is one for the shoppers who are just starting to look into charity shopping. Start with basics like t-shirts and jumpers. Look at what your wardrobe is missing and see if you can find that piece. Like shopping on the high street you wouldn’t go in without an idea of what you want so shop that way when you’re shopping at charity shops. We still want to think about our shopping habits and our effect on the planet.

Outfit Details: Jumper – The British Heart Foundation (originally Primark)/ Skirt – The British Heart Foundation (originally New Look)

Girl in Pink Jumper, Blue Skirt - Outfit from Charity Shops

Tips for shopping in Charity Shops Cont.

  •  Sizing isn’t everything: The size you see the hanger is just a number. Be open minded, the jumper that you see in the pictures is a size 16 originally from Primark. I don’t think I would ever have bought a size 16 jumper in a store but when I saw this jumper I fell in love and loved being able to wear it oversize. The other thing that you can think about is tailoring, it was said that Kate Moss was a massive charity shop fan and was always having her clothes tailored . I have to say I’ve not had to get anything tailored but I have looked into tailoring as I’m wanting to try and get some jeans as these are items I haven’t bought from charity shops before.
  • Not every visit will be a great find day: We’ve all seen on social media the great bargains people get in charity shops. I’ve found some great bargains but I’ve also had days when I’ve come home with nothing. That’s the thing with charity shops you’re not getting tonnes of new stock every day like the high street stores but it is sometimes nice to pop in. I find that if I’m in a shopping mood and want to spend money just nipping into a charity shop gets rid of that urge to buy something.
  • Be friendly with the staff and don’t be afraid to ask: if you’re after something specific, like if you’re looking for jumpers. Ask if they have any more waiting to come out.
  • Try shops in different locations: Like I mentioned above you’re not always going to find a gem every time you head to a charity shop but what I will recommend is move locations. In Newcastle the city centre is full of charity stops but you also have streets like Chillingham Road in Heaton, Shields Road in Byker and even some in Jesmond. These are sometimes where you find some great gems because these are peoples’ local shops, places like Jesmond have a St Oswald’s that is a more boutique style store so you’re likely to find more brands like Joules, Zara and other more high end of the high street brands. I once saw a Burberry children’s coat in there!

I hope these tips come in handy and help you start your charity shop or if you’re just looking for some ideas of what shopping in charity shops is like. If you have any tips that I haven’t mentioned then please add them below and I can update this blog post over time.

You can see a number of outfits that I’ve been able to make from charity shops over on my Instagram (here). I would recommend following if you’re interested in charity shop outfits, slow fashion and revamping them outfits without hitting the high street.

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