Ocassionally I see a blog post on another site that captures something I’ve been thinking for a while. Last week, this post by Mary Cunningham on Penny Thots did just that, when she wrote about the steeply rising prices in charity shops. This is something that’s been on my mind recently too. Whilst Mary was writing about the U.S. I’ve noticed the same trend here over the last year or so and I’m guessing it has something to do with the rise in popularity of vintage. Suddenly old stuff’s cool again and who can blame charity shops for making the most of that? But seriously guys, don’t take the mickey.
Yesterday I saw a gilt-edged mirror in the window of a local charity shop. About the size of a piece of A4 it was pretty, and very similar to one I bought in the same shop about eight years ago for five pounds. Yesterday’s price? Forty! Is inflation really so very high? Charity shops, aware their stock is on the rise are trying to make the most of currently being in fashion and whilst understandable I wonder if some are taking it too far. Certainly this mirror wasn’t worth forty. It wasn’t vintage and it would have been easy to find the same thing on the high street for less. By visiting an auction house you could get something way better for far less cash too. Shame, really. If prices keep rising like this won’t it lead to a drop off in customers? Anyone who’s been in a charity shop lately and seen Primark leggings go for the same or even more than the original sale price might think twice about going back.
So, what to do? Do you challenge the charity shops and tell them you think their prices are out of line? Or be all British about it, keep quiet and just take your custom elsewhere? I guess I’m in the second camp; though I find some of the prices hugely out of touch I wouldn’t raise it with the shop workers. Though I’d like to learn more about how the larger charity shop chains price their goods: do they all do so locally or follow corporate guidelines? Maybe a littlespot of volunteering in a charity shops is in order one day to peek behind the scenes!
Whilst charity shops raise their prices auctions and car boot sales seem to be keeping their feet on the ground. I’ve written before about the joy of auctions and the bargains to be had. And because the customer sets the price rather than the establishment the bargains can be tremendous. If no other interested party shows up on the same day then that gilt edged mirror might be yours for way less than a tenner.
But the real deals and steals are to be found at car boot sales and fleamarkets. Sunburst clocks, long a personal favourite; retro chairs and china teasets, the likes of which you’d find in Cath Kidston for 100 quid. After watching last week’s episode of The Family where they all went back to the seventies I have a little hankering for one of those lurex string pictures of a mother and baby owl (remember them?) and I reckon a car boot sale would be the best hunting ground.
There are some thoughts here on how to get the best from charity shops, such as seeking out the smaller, independent ones in small towns, but even there prices are on the up. What do you think though? Am I being a bit Scrooge-like about this? After all the charities supported by these shops do terrific work, largely funded by the shops themselves, and I’d still far, far prefer to give them my cash than hand it over to designer stores. But I just wonder if charity shops might be shooting themselves in the foot by hiking their prices so steeply on the back of the vintage boom. I’d love to hear your thoughts – will you swallow the price hikes and support the charity shops no matter what, or do the rising prices leave a nasty taste?
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