Savvy shoppers ditch high street giants for city’s charity shops

Written by Liv Hill

With life beginning to return to normal after a series of gruelling lockdowns, charity shops have become the places to be on local high streets across the country.

Having time to reflect during lockdown, we are all becoming increasingly aware of the need to be more sustainable in order to help the climate crisis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions come from the fashion industry, meaning charity shops are becoming more and more favoured over fast fashion.

Not only is buying second hand more eco-friendly, but swapping out shopping sprees in big-brand stores for charity shops is helping people and organisations in need at a time when they need it most.

Regular charity shop goer and student, Tara Appleyard said: “I was excited for charity shops to reopen because I just love going shopping but I am trying to stop supporting fast fashion so charity shops are perfect because you can buy yourself little treats but you don’t feel as bad about supporting horrible companies.”

Tara is not the only one choosing to ditch fast fashion, Robin Osterley, chief executive of the Charity Retail Association (CRA), said charity shops had been benefiting from greater interest in recycling and reusing items, as well as efforts to find bargains while times were financially tough, The Guardian reported.

According to CRA, the average retail income generated by charity shops taking part in the Charity Shops Survey 2019 increased by 5.1% compared to the previous year.

Of course, takings dropped during lockdown as stores were forced to close. However, Sheffield high streets have been bursting with life since shops reopened on 12 April.

Sheffield is filled with unique charity shops on every high street and shoppers have been taking full advantage of stores being open by queuing to grab a bargain or two – whilst simultaneously supporting struggling charities.

Manager at Oxfam in Broomhill, Sheffield, Alan Dilley said: “It has been great being open, we have been really busy with donations and customers and everyone seems happy to be back. For older people or people who don’t have to go out, it must be nice to have something to do.”

The charity Oxfam is a global movement of millions of people working together to end poverty.

With 750 Oxfam stores in the UK, Oxfam remains a popular charity to support and is the largest retailer of second-hand books in Europe.

Both the Oxfam shops in Broomhill and on West Street in Sheffield are popular for their wide selection of second-hand books.

English Literature student, Millie Clarke said: “I was excited to stop spending so much money on books that I need for my degree online. It is really great to be supporting local charity shops again, it was really sad to see them closed and not making any money at a time they need it so badly.”

Oxfam are lucky to get such brilliant donations, said Mr Dilley. The store in Broomhill gets brand new books donated to them and they remain in perfect condition and the store are ready to accept donations again after having to refuse stock during lockdown.

The RSPCA store in Broomhill have spent this week sorting out their winter stock after not being allowed into the shop during lockdown.

Volunteer at RSPCA in Broomhill, Sophie Shukla, said: “It feels great but surreal to be back. It feels good to see all the regulars again and be able to sell some stock to get some money in for the animals.”

The RSPCA Sheffield Branch is a separately registered charity to the National RSPCA, which is the largest animal welfare charity in the UK, based in Sussex. Although they receive some support from the National RSPCA, they have to generate all their own running costs for the animal centre, through local fundraising in the Sheffield area. This is more important than ever after suffering an unprecedented financial hit at the hand of the pandemic.

Every item purchased from the charity shops helps to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home animals in need.

Miss Shukla added: “Even buying something that is 50p, every little helps and it all goes towards the animals and helping them out because it is not just humans that have been affected by the pandemic, support is really needed at this time and as a community we all need to take care of each other, charity shops are great for supporting one another.”

The RCPCA store said they were looking forward to the nice weather and being able to have the doors and windows open to entice more customers into the store.

Coming out of the last lockdown, Miss Shukla said: “There was an air of uncertainty and fear and people didn’t know what they were doing with masks and hand sanitiser and being allowed to touch things, whereas now I think people have adapted, which is sad, but it is just the reflection of the pandemic we’re in.”

PDSA in Broomhill has also been busy as COVID restrictions begin in ease. Many charity shops have been overwhelmed by donations after people have had clear outs during lockdown – though PDSA reiterated that they are fortunate to have a large and well organised stockroom meaning they have been able to take all donations they have been offered.

Assistant Manager at PDSA store in Broomhill, Aaron Robinson said: “People are just coming out and spending, whatever is not glued down, people are buying which is lovely. We like to be busy. I think a lot of people have been buying so much online and they can’t be bothered to send it back so we are getting a lot of brand new items.”

PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity, providing free and low-cost treatment to pets in need, but the impact of the lockdown closure has caused their store in Coventry to close.

Mr Robinson said: “Even though it was a shame to see another shop go, that stock came to us so we were able to sell it where they couldn’t.”

After a tough year for the charity shops, there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel for their trade with a spike in post-lockdown popularity.

Whether it be a conscious choice to become more sustainable, to grab a quick bargain, or supporting local communities, charity shops are finally receiving their well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

Written by Liv Hill

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