A slightly different post for me, but I made a decision to write about more of my interests outside of motherhood this year, so here we are. The subject for today – charity shops! One of my biggest loves throughout my life has been rummaging through charity shops seeing what bargains I can find, and it was a small dream come true when I got a job as charity shop manager just before I fell pregnant with Darcie. The timing was unfortunate and I would have loved to have spent longer in the role but everything happens for a reason and all that, and now I wouldn’t change a thing about how life has panned out.
So here are my top tips and tricks for getting the most out of your local charity shops, from my nine months experience of running one, and my lifetime experience of shopping in them.
1- Visit frequently
If you’re short on time this won’t always be possible but my top tip would have to be to go as often as you can. Most charity shops will put out new clothes daily, some even more frequently than this, and the best bits will usually get snapped up first. So, whenever you’re passing a charity shop and have even just five minutes to spare, pop in and have a quick browse to see if there is anything new to catch your eye.
2- More is more
If you visit just one charity shop, your chances of finding much you like aren’t great. The best thing to do is track down a row of shops in your local area. In Southampton Shirley and Portswood are two of the best places to go as there are around ten to fifteen charity shops on the high streets. Make it a little outing, hit them all and see what treasures you can find.
3- Make friends with the staff & volunteers
When I was shop manager, and when I was a volunteer many years ago, I would get to know the regular customers. Often they’d tell me if there was something specific they were on the lookout for, and we would get to know the items they like. Don’t expect a discount for being friendly with the staff but generally they’ll be happy to keep something by for you if it’s a guaranteed sale.
4- Don’t ignore Sale Rails
Generally items that end up on a sale rail in a charity shop will be things that have been out on the shop floor longest and not sold. And this could simply be because you haven’t walked in and fallen in love with it yet. Charity shop customers come in all shapes and sizes and so just because something hasn’t sold yet, doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it.
5- Leave no stone un-turned
By which I mean don’t forget to browse the men’s section and also sizes outside of your normal range. This is for a few reasons. Firstly because there are always some gems to be found in the men’s section! Secondly because things easily get put out into the wrong section. This isn’t like a high street shop where everyone working there is trained to a high standard. Mistakes happen more frequently in charity shops so things can easily get sized wrong or just labelled incorrectly. (This is also where bargains will often happen too, for example – a dress would normally be priced higher than a t shirt, so if a dress gets incorrectly labelled as a T shirt then you’re onto a winner!) And the last reason to shop outside of your normal size range is because of the huge range of brands being sold will mean that the sizes will all vary anyway.
6- Think outside the box
This carries on from my last point really, but remember to think creatively when you’re browsing. You might love a dress five sizes too big but before you leave it on the rail think – could you add a belt? Could you alter it at home? Or find someone handy with a sewing machine to do it for you?
A men’s shirt could make an awesome shirt dress, a par of jeans could easily become a pair of shorts or even a skirt, the possibilities are endless!
7- Shop out of season
If you’re on a strict budget then obviously don’t do this. However if you’re playing the long game then the best time to find bargains is out of season. If a shop gets a winter coat donated to them in the height of summer, no matter how nice it is they will generally price it low to avoid it sitting around for too long.
8- Follow the shops on social media
More and more charity shops are dabbling in the world of social media now, and a lot will have a Facebook or Instagram page. If they are ever running an offer or have a high interest item in store, this will be where they go to promote it. If we had particularly high items of stock we would do one off promotion days where everything would be a pound or we would run seasonal sales too. There are some serious bargains to be found when this happens.
9- Area doesn’t necessarily matter (but it can!)
Most charity shops will have stock rotation systems in place which means that items donated in affluent areas could well end up in any shop in any area. Some of them will be more savvy and make sure the most expensive items go to shops with a higher price point but not all will do this. However if you are on the look out for some fancier bits, it is definitely worth paying a visit to a fancier area as they will get first go at selling these items, as this is where they will tend to have been donated.
10- Don’t get discouraged
I like to think I’m quite a savvy charity-shop-shopper (I’m writing this post after all) but even so I will often have totally unsuccessful trips. There is never any guarantee of what you will find and someone the exact same size as you, with the exact same taste could have raided the shops just before you got there. But going back to tip number one – don’t be put off going back, as the next time could be a totally different story!
I hope these tips were helpful and I hope there are plenty of wonderful charity shop bargains shining brightly in your future.
I’d love you to tag me on Instagram with your purchases and outfit creations!