Yesterday we went to Eastbourne, because we thought the charity shops might be worth a look. Charity Shop Tourism hasn't made it to Sussex yet, so perhaps I could start filling in the gaps. Newhaven for example, throws up a few occasional treasures, but then I do do the rounds (Searchlight (that's a local one), PDSA and Scope) once or twice a week. Lewes is wonderful; occasionally dear but worth it. I have paid £7.50 each for two Monsoon skirts, but been pleased with them, and the other week I got a pair of Maiko Dawson (no, I'd never heard of her either, but anyone who doesn't even list prices on their website must be good) shoes. Brighton is stupidly expensive. Eastbourne was disappointing.
There are lots of shops, but the stock was generally poor, and I wonder whether this is because of the growing habit of charity shops to try to be clever and cream off the best stuff to auction or sell in special shops in more affluent areas. We ended up going in at least half a dozen shops and buying absolutely nothing - which must be a record.
Then this morning, I read this article in the Observer magazine. I would write in, but they don't have a letters page; or leave a comment online, but it doesn't seem to have the facility, so I will leave my comment here (what else are blogs for).
I was particularly taken by the juxtaposition of these two statements (my italics):
"The idea is to make them bright and vibrant and to remove the stigma of charity-shop shopping"
"We tend to think we'll auction all of those clothes that people feel are a bit too good for the charity shop"
Stigma, what stigma, eh.
Now, I understand that the purpose of charity shops is to make money for their cause. But unless you are selling a premium product (and 99.99% of second-hand clothes do not come into that category) retailers for hundreds of years have understood that the most profitable way to do that is to pile it high and sell it cheap. Trying to cream off the best stuff is a waste of time (yes, even volunteers' time) and money, and if it becomes widespread charity shops will lose customers. It's the thought of getting a prize, that extra special bargain, that brings us through the doors week after week - but once we're in, we usually tend to buy something that catches our eye. Once all there is on the rails is Primark stuff priced at more than it originally cost (which happens often), then there will be no point in going at all.
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