A mini rant on charity shop pricing

So over in a little place I like to call “vintage land” on facebook we have been discussing our anger at the overpriced nature of charity shops. Now, don’t get me wrong I am no kind of charity scrooge who hates giving money to charity, No, no. Infact I really LIKE buying from charity shops because It makes me feel a little less guilty about the insane amount of money I spend on clothes ( I’m one of these crazy people who will often go without buying food to buy more clothes and live off a diet consisting of only food my parents have bought me when they feel sorry for me or biscuits cos I love a good biscuit).
My problem all stems from the fact that a charity shop by the nature of what it is should be about providing reasonably priced clothing for those who need it.
Madeline Ginsburg wrote a wonderful article for costume in 1980 when charity shops were still in their infancy which succinctly explains this. (The article is a very interesting piece about the second hand trade as a whole, but I’ve just picked out this section for your reading pleasure)
“The popularity and upgrading of the jumble sale has led to another new development the Nearly New or Charity Shop, now an important source of income for almost every welfare organization, though the form in which the accounts are published makes it impossible to isolate the profits of the clothing part of their stock. Usually housed in rent-free centrally placed but temporarily unlet properties, they have a pleasant atmosphere, encouraging to the needy and no deterrent to the merely curious. The stock is given, the staff voluntary and the overheads low. Choice is easy and the prices midway between jumble and the trade.”
I’ve picked out two key statements:
They have a pleasant atmosphere, encouraging to the needy
ENCOURAGING TO THE NEEDY. This is what charity shops should be about. It is not about creating another high street boutique, it is not about isolating people. It should be about availability. Allowing people the opportunities for good quality clothing at low prices!
Prices midway between jumble and the trade.
Can’t we go back to this???
Many charity shops are so much more expensive than trade prices it is ridiculous. £89 for an Aquascutum coat in Winchester. £55 for a Per una jacket in Cheam. £40 for a Next jacket in York. It really is getting out of hand.
One of the joys of going into charity shops used to be the opportunity to find a bargain. Now going into a charity shop often leaves me feeling distinctly sad. I feel like charity shops have changed so much in their meaning. The fuddy duddy nature of the charity shop was one of the things that made them great, and Mary Portas trying to make every charity shop hip and trendy has actually destroyed a lot of what made going to charity hops an altogether fun experience.
So that is my two cents worth on it all!


My info comes from Madeleine Ginsburg, “Rags to Riches: The Second-Hand Clothes Trade 1700-1978,” Costume 14 (1980
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5 thoughts on “A mini rant on charity shop pricing

  1. What really irritates me is when you see a primark item at £5 or £6, and you know it was probably only £4 new!the local hospice shop which used to be really good has undergone a major fancy refit and now has lots of top drawer high street names such as LK Bennett etc , the prices have tripled.Alas I haven't bought anything there since it changed.

  2. Totally agree with this. I used to manage a charity shop and the problem is that they are instructed to use a pricing system (say £3.99-£5.99 for a top) which has no relevance to what the item would have cost originally. I think prices should reflect this. For instance, we once received a pair of Jimmy Choo boots that would retail at around £500, so I priced them at £100 and they were gone within half an hour. On the other end of the scale, a primark top would be a maximum of £2.50, as proportionately that is probably around a 5th of the selling price. I have no problem paying more than a tenner for something that would have cost over £100 new, but no I am not going to pay more than the original selling price! The sad thing is that this haphazard pricing actually costs the charity in the long run as unsold stock may be sent to another store, and then on again if it fails to sell, or will just end up in the rag bag for pennies anyway!

  3. A friend manages several charity shops and is on a low basic salary. She tells me that she has to meet targets to get her bonus and if not, she gets a verbal rap on the knuckles. Big business now, thanks to dear Mary.

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