This is a post that I’ve wanted to write for a long time and after a busy start to the year, I’ve finally settled into my own place with a weekday off to do a big old brain dump on a topic that I’m really passionate about: second hand shopping.
Ever since I was little, my parents would take me to the car boot sale every Sunday morning which I loved, despite not being a morning person. I always loved finding a bargain and giving someone’s unwanted items a loving new home. You know what they say:
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
As I got older, maybe around 15, I started getting really into shopping in charity shops.
Again, I loved the idea of giving an unwanted item a loving new home, recycling, finding a bargain and taking part in one of my favourite pastimes (shopping) while helping a charity.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone should buy everything secondhand.
I still love high street shops (my personal favourites being Primark, Topshop and Monki) but if we bought more items from charity shops, it would have such a huge impact on our planet, social causes and our bank balances.
There are so many unwanted items in the backs of wardrobes and around homes. Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, a show tactfully aired on Netflix in January, definitely increased country-wide decluttering of anything in their homes that didn’t ‘spark joy.’ This amplified the number of donations and sales in charity shops all around England.
- 350,000 tonnes, around £140 million-worth, of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year due to the rise of ‘throwaway’ fashion.
- This equates to over 30% of our unwanted clothing currently going to landfill.
- Last year, research found that 5% of the UK’s total annual carbon and water footprint came from clothing consumption. Textiles release methane, a greenhouse gas, as they degrade in landfill.
- In the UK, 700,000 tonnes of clothing goes to recycling centres, textile banks, clothes collections and to charity each year. That’s enough to fill 459 Olympic-size swimming pools.
- More than 60% of householders in the UK say they have unwanted clothes and textiles stored in their homes. More than half of those surveyed in research conducted by The Times admitted throwing away perfectly wearable garments, rather than salvaging them for future use or donating them to friends, family or charity shops.
(Source: Clothes Aid)
I didn’t know this before but charity shops are largely a British institution. The Charity Retail Association estimates that there are around 10,500 charity shops in the UK. As far as possible, goods that are not sold are recycled. For example, textile processors will buy bags of clothing and other materials from shops and then recycle them or export the items for reuse.
In the past, buying your clothes from a charity shop may have been perceived as an activity done by someone not doing well financially. However, how we shop is changing and society is experiencing the first generation of young people who have grown up being taught about sustainability and consumer ethics at school. We’re now seeing a wave of savvy consumers who are beginning to tune into sustainable fashion, with more and more people looking to buy second-hand bargains and support good causes.
The retail high street looks different compared to years ago. The ever growing charity sector has been springing into empty units next to mainstream retail shops, with some even replacing empty buildings previously occupied by well-known high street brands.
Charity shops are the future of the high street, not a sign of decline.
According to the Charity Retail Association, charity retail has seen almost a 5% rise in sales in the past year compared to fast fashion retail which has seen a significant decrease, a step in the right direction.
This post isn’t an advert for where I currently work (Shelter Boutique – Kings Cross) but I wanted to give it a shout out because it’s pretty unique and the whole team are so proud of it!
Wayne Hemingway is a British designer and co-founder of HemingwayDesign who were responsible for the design of our shop. He has stated that when the developers of Coal Drops Yard (the coolest new shopping centre in the country in his opinion) wanted a charity shop at the heart of it, they were sending an important message about how charity retail should fit into a modern shopping mix. He believes that more developers need to follow their lead, to realise that well-presented second-hand shopping can be aspirational and deserves its place in any shopping centre or high street.
Charity shops have become much more ‘fashionable’ places to shop in recent years especially with many shops upping their game and banishing the charity shop stereotype with some incredible visual merchandising. Research has shown that the general public still expect the same experience as if they were shopping in a mainstream high street store. Key elements include: product presentation, adequate floor space to roam freely teamed with visually pleasing displays.
By shopping at a charity shop, you are creating a benefit in 4 distinct ways:
- You save money. I’ve found some absolute bargains at charity shop with items in perfect condition at a fraction of the original cost. I’ve also stumbled across some excellent vintage pieces that you definitely wouldn’t be able to find in your average high street shop.
- You reduce waste. Charity shopping is a form of recycling that not only keeps unwanted goods out of landfills but creates new value simply by changing owner. You know what they say: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
- You reduce demand for new clothes. The clothing industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, after oil and before the livestock industry. By getting your clothes secondhand and engaging in sustainable fashion, you stop supporting a system that is doing huge damage to our planet.
- Your money helps others. Your money goes to helping those in need and if you took the item home and decided that you didn’t love it, you could simply donate it to another charity shop in the knowledge that all the money that you had spent had gone to a good cause with nothing going to waste.
After watching Stacey Dooley Investigates: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, I was so happy to see her wearing second hand clothing (mostly from Oxfam) on the shoot and cover of Cosmo this month! I’m so happy to see second hand clothing getting the media attention that it deserves!
I wanted to write more about the huge impact that fast fashion has on the environment and those that work within in it but this post is already rather long so I’ll save that for another day.
Hopefully this has been a relatively interesting/informative read and it would be amazing if it’s inspired you to donate to or shop in a charity shop soon! <3