Charity shop: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Window display in a UK charity shop.

A charity shop, thrift shop, thrift store, hospice shop (U.S., Canada), resale shop (when not meaning consignment shop (U.S.)), op shop (Australia/N.Z.) (from "opportunity shop"), or second-hand shop (Malaysia) is a retail establishment operated by a charitable organization for the purpose of fundraising.

Charity shops are a type of social enterprise. They usually sell mainly second-hand goods donated by members of the public, and are often staffed by volunteers. Because the items for sale were obtained for free, and business costs are low, the items can be sold at very low prices. After costs are paid, all remaining income from the sales is used in accord with the organization's stated charitable purpose. Costs include purchase and/or depreciation of fixtures (clothing racks, bookshelves, counters, etc.), operating costs (maintenance, municipal service fees, electricity, telephone, limited advertising) and the building lease or mortgage.


Popularity of charity shops

Charity shops are often popular with people who are frugal, people who live on a limited or fixed income, collectors, and people with unusual tastes. This last group includes members of various subcultures. For example, clothing from charity stores was often modified by early punk rockers. In the United States shopping at a thrift store has become popular enough to earn a slang term, thrifting.

Environmentalists may prefer buying second-hand goods as this uses fewer natural resources and would appear do less damage to the environment than by buying new goods, in part because the goods are usually collected locally. In addition, reusing second-hand items is another form of recycling, and thus reduces the amount of waste going to landfill sites.

Also, people who oppose sweat shops often purchase second-hand clothing as an alternative to supporting clothing companies which have dubious ethical practices.

Thrift stores are also popular with eBay sellers who buy collectible items and hope to resell them for a profit. However, this prevents people who cannot otherwise afford these items from getting them at all, and leaves the stores and their customers with a reduced-quality selection of merchandise to choose from.

New goods sold at charity shops

Some charity shops also sell a limited range of new goods which may be branded to the charity, or have some connection with the cause the charity supports. Oxfam stores, for example, sell fair trade food and crafts. Other stores may sell new Halloween supplies and decorations where old vintage clothes are popular for use as costumes. Some stores specialise in selling books, music, or bridalwear. Charity shops may receive overstock or obsolete goods from local for-profit businesses; the for-profit businesses benefit by taking a tax write-off and clearing unwanted goods from their store instead of throwing the goods out, which is costly.

United Kingdom

The first Oxfam charity shop in the United Kingdom was established in Broad Street, Oxford, and began trading in December 1947 (although the shop itself did not open until February 1948). Oxfam opened some of the first charity shops.

However, pre-dating this, one of the first Red Cross shops was opened at 17 Old Bond Street, London, as early as 1941. In total over two hundred “permanent” (for the duration of the war) Red Cross gift shops and about 150 temporary Red Cross shops were opened during the war years. A condition of the shop licence issued by the Board of Trade was that all goods offered for sale were gifts. Purchase for re-sale was forbidden. The entire proceeds from sales had to be passed to the Duke of Gloucester’s Red Cross and St John Fund. Most premises were lent free of rent and in some cases owners also met the costs of heating and lighting.

During World War I similar fundraising activities occurred such as a bazaar in Shepherd Market, London, which made £50,000 for the Red Cross.

Oxfam has the largest number of charity shops in the UK with over 700 stores. Many Oxfam shops also sell books, and the organization now operate over 70 specialist Oxfam Bookshops, making them the largest retailer of second-hand books in Britain. Other Oxfam affiliates also have stores - Jersey, Germany, Ireland (45 shops in NI/ROI), the Netherlands and Hong Kong.

Other charities with a strong presence on high streets in the UK include British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Age Concern, Help the Aged, Oxfam, Save the Children, Scope and Sue Ryder Care. Many local hospices also operate charity shops to raise funds.

British charity shops are mainly staffed by unpaid volunteers. Goods for sale are predominantly from donations - 93% according to the official estimate. [1] Donations are not always made in the approved manner. It is common to see piles of black plastic bags left in a charity shop doorway. In expensive areas, donations include a proportion of good quality designer clothing and charity shops in these areas are sought out for cut-price fashions.

Gift Aid is a UK tax incentive for individual donors where, subject to a signed declaration being held by the charity, income tax paid on donations can be reclaimed by the charity. Although initially intended only for cash donations, the scheme now (since 2006) allows tax on the income earned by charity shops acting as agent for the donor to be reclaimed. [2]

Charity shops in the UK get 80% relief on business rates on their premises, and can apply for discretionary relief on the remaining 20%, which is an occasional source of criticism from retailers which have to pay in full.[3]


In Australia, major national opportunity shop chains include the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (trading as Vinnies), the Salvation Army (trading as Salvos), the Red Cross, and the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. Many local charitable organisations, both religious and secular, run opportunity shops. Common among these are missions and animal shelters.

United States & Canada

In the United States, major national thrift shop operators include Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, and ReStore (see Habitat for Humanity International). Regional operators include Deseret Industries in the western United States and those run by the Bethesda Lutheran Home in the Upper Midwest. Many local charitable organizations, both religious and secular, operate thrift shops. Common among these are missions, children's homes and homeless shelters, and animal shelters. In addition, some charity shops are operated by churches, and are fundraising venues that support activities including in some cases, missionary activities in other countries. Several U.S. stores are for-profit, with the charity that collected the goods making money from the wholesale of them to the store.

In July 2009, a U.S. government report revealed that several banks are punishing their customers for saving money by using their credit cards at thrift stores. This includes raising interest rates, lowering the credit limit, or even damaging a shopper's overall credit score, which may cause other credit issuers to further harm the shopper by taking similar actions (universal default), or denying credit applications altogether. The automatic and unfounded assumption is that thrift-store shoppers are in financial trouble. (Even if this were true in a given case, such actions would put the customer in an even worse financial situation.) Laws passed by Congress the month before are expected to stop issuers from these practices.[4][5][6]

Thrift Stores

Thrift stores are generally owned by a charity but run as an independent business under contract: they are licensed by the charity, which provides the merchandise for sale, and benefits by the sale of these goods directly to the contractor who operates the shop. The shop may then make a profit from this arrangement. In some cases, e.g. 'Savers' and 'Value Village' they pay a small percentage of the profit to the charity. Charities in the US are supported by tax legislation (see 501(c)(3)) but this does not extend to the 'for profit' thrift shop. Unlike directly charity-run shops run by volunteers, thrift shops pay taxes, and must under their contract have employees with proper contracts of employment.

In many countries around the world, not just exclusively in the Third World, second-hand clothing that is initially donated, are resold and is considered a commodity throughout the world. Some countries forbid it as it harms the local textile industry, as it is in the case of the Philippines. Other times, countries would increase tariffs to reduce imports. Some countries ban it as it is a distributor of disease and poor hygiene. Second-hand clothing is an ongoing issue, there has also been cases when drugs have been hidden in the shoes and clothing for illegal purposes. The author of an article, Karen Transberg Hansen suggested that in Zambia, however, salaula, or the selling of second-hand clothing actually helps the local economy in generation income. [7] Hansen insisted it helped because it provided more jobs (handling, cleaning, repairing, and restyling) for people to do. It has also provided governments with revenue from tariffs.

See also


  1. ^ Association of Charity Shops FAQ
  2. ^ HMRC Gift Aid
  3. ^ Call to cut charity shops in town
  4. ^ "Report: Where You Shop Matters", WITN
  5. ^ "Credit card companies accused of penalizing the thrifty", WOAI
  6. ^ "Store purchases could punish credit holders", WMBF
  7. ^ Hansen, Karen Tranberg. 2004. Helping or hindering? Controversies around the international second-hand clothing trade. Anthropology Today 20 (4):3-9.

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