I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a long time. I’ve written it in my head a hundred times, and bored people in the flesh with the rant you are about to read. But nothing gets on my goat more at the moment than hugely over-priced items in charity shops. Blame the boom in a love for all things retro or vintage, or blame Mary Portas, but some days when I am browsing charity shops in Edinburgh, I really do wonder who on earth they think their customers are.
OKay, let’s deal with Mary Portas first. I love this piece from The Guardian from 2009, when Mary burst into an Orpington charity shop, like a bull in a china shop, and tried to get it to go all upmarket. I could see her point…to a point. She was trying to get more money for the charity, by putting higher prices on better items. Never mind that the volunteers – most of them elderly – were baffled by what she was trying to do.
And so was I. And I still am. I can’t get my head around charity shops where items are priced higher than high street retailers. I can’t get my head around how anyone could possibly think that anyone would pay £100 for a vintage fur jacket. I saw this very item today in a Barnardo’s in Edinburgh. As a seasoned vintage fan, I’ve never, ever seen a fur coat marked at this price. It’s a nonsense. But it’s happening more and more. Many of the charity shop staff have got wise to the hipsters popping in to see if they can find something, well, er, hip, and have increased prices on anything they deem ‘vintage’ or worthy of said hipsters.
But what about the people who shop in charity shops because that’s all they can afford. And let’s not forget that charity shops have always had a dual purpose – to earn money for the charity, and provide cheap shopping for the community they are in.
But pricing summer dresses at £80 (yes, that is you Capability Scotland), is a nonsense. It’s a sad fact that charity shops are a dumping ground these days for poor-quality, disposable fashion. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Primark items in my local shops. Of course, someone may purchase these, but sometimes I note that prices are as high, or higher than, the store was originally charging!
As for the vintage thing, many charity shops charge more than vintage stores for inferior items. There’s a Shelter shop near me that had the most ridiculously over-priced ‘vintage’ range I have ever seen. Grubby, ripped, dirty old dresses and tops, at nonsensical prices, sat on rails for months, hence the state of them. A friend of mine who runs one of Scotland’s most successful vintage shops had a run-in with a charity store representative that was far from charitable. Her charity wanted to open a vintage themed store in the same street, and had the bare-faced cheek to visit my friend’s shop and tell her they were just checking out the layout, you know, to see how they should lay out their store. That would be their store, where they got their stock for free and didn’t pay the same rates on as my friend’s store – a business, her livelihood. Not very charitable in my eyes.
I love nothing more than browsing in charity shops. Mr GK thinks it’s the crazy old lady part of me, and constantly reminds me to calm it down before we end up on one of those hoarders TV programmes. But a lot of the time, I get left with a bad taste in my mouth thanks to what I see as unnecessary greed. Is it not better to sell eight dresses for £10 each every week, than to have one at £80 sat on your rack for months?
Oh, and these are my buy of today, in case you are interested! Two Royal Wedding glasses, 50p each, from Charles and Di’s 1981 nuptials. Clearly not deemed a covetable item, eh?!