What’s Happened to our Charity Shops?

Posted in Fashion, Second Hand Shopping.

When I first started A Little Bird Told Me back in 2009, I was a charity shop obsessive. I visited my favourites at least once a week and always left with armfuls of stuff. Admittedly, much of that stuff was eventually re-donated or sold on due to its uselessness, but there were some real gems to be found. My thrifty haul posts featured regularly and I was forever showing off my second hand wares. For the next two years, I stocked my wardrobe and dressed my house largely from charity shops and car boot sales.

This year, however, things are markedly different. We’re slap bang in the middle of thrifting season – the car boot sales should be in full swing, charity shops should be groaning under the weight of spring cleaning donations. But they’re not. The weather has played a part – constant rain has stopped regular car boots – but mostly, people just don’t want to give their hard-earned stuff away or sell it cheaply. And in contrast, eBay has thousands of auctions for the things I’d usually see in charity shops – vintage dresses, faux fur coats, even Primark’s finest.

I still visit my favourite charity shops, although the lack of good stock means I no longer come out with armfuls of stuff. The car boot sales I went to every weekend last summer have been cancelled since early June due to waterlogged fields and driving rain. I haven’t done a ‘Thrift Find of the Month’ post since March, simply because I haven’t found anything.

uk fashion blog

uk charity shop blog I popped in to my local St Gemma’s Hospice shop last week and picked up a couple of things – this art deco-style vase for £2.99 and this Zara dress for £4.99. They’re my first charity shop purchases in months. There’s no doubt charity shops are suffering from lack of donations, and less stock seems to push prices up to cover the difference. Bargain hunters are left empty-handed, but surely the ones who suffer the most are the people and animals these charities support.

I have a huge (and I mean huge – it’s obscene) pile of clothes that I’d usually stick on eBay to make some extra pennies (for more clothes… it’s a vicious circle). But I’ve bagged it up and will take it to my favourite charity shops next week. I don’t begrudge anyone for trying to make a little more money in these recessionary times, but I’ve had so much enjoyment from second hand shopping, I think it’s only fair to give a bit back. I’ll still sell on eBay when I can be bothered (the image uploader gives me rage), but I want to see charity shops back to their bargainous best. And that means donating the good stuff, rather than selling it.

What do you think – have you noticed a decline in stock at your local charity shops? Are your second hand finds few and far between these days?



I agree. i don’t shop in charity shops that much because I haven’t had the funds to really shop anywhere but there’s hardly anything good in the ones I go in to.

Sadly, the prices are really rocketing. A skirt I tried on was from Asda and was priced at £5- something I’d usually see at half the price.

I’ve got a load of stuff upstairs and at my mum’s that I’m going to donate soon. You’ve inspired me. xx


i completely understand, i used to adore charity shopping and i used to go all the time. however, like you said i barely go anymore. and i’m also amazed by the pricing! they are soaring up. i saw a pair of fit flops in one with dead skin on the hole, i couldn’t believe it!

Chloe Verde

Im actually starting to sort through my things to make to charity shops, I’ve never done it before. But how can I expect to get a good charity shop find if I don’t give back?!

Chloe x


I have to admit that I’m pretty lazy, so I don’t bother to sell on eBay. When I do have mammoth oh-my-god-I-need-to-declutter, I tend to want it to be gone asap (usually cause I’m moving), so I always give it to charity shops.

I could be short changing myself, but I feel like I’m doing my bit to regularly give to charity. And when I get letters saying I’ve made a charity £30 just in Gift Aid (and I take my stuff to four different places), I do get a warm fuzzy feeling.

The other thing I’ve seen a lot of recently, which might affect charity shops, are these buy clothes by weight places. A lot sell it on to third world countries (though so do some charities).


I have a rule, if clothes are over one year old and I don’t want them any more, they MUST go to a Charity shop. If they’re less than a year old and were moderately expensive and haven’t been worn much, then I will attempt to sell them on eBay. I also wanted to mention that Chesterfield is a GREAT place for thriting. It’s got more Charity shops than anywhere else I’ve been, has a massive market on Thursdays and ALWAYS has car boots on Sundays. It’s like thrifting paradise. 🙂 x


I’ve had quite good luck recently in charity shops! Agreed with carboots – it’s such a shame the weather has lead to many being cancelled! I’m often far too lazy to sell stuff on ebay (that takes effort haha) but like you, I like giving back to my favourite charity shops that have given me such joy!x

Blue Belle

We have been living in the UK for the past 12 months and we’re moving on in 2 weeks time. You’ve made me feel a lot better about the bags and bags of clothes I’ve donated to charity!

I hope someone gets some joy from them all!


Deepa Mistry

I am wondering if because thrifting and charity shopping has become more popular ( or ‘cool’ even?) that prices are going up? I don’t begrudge the charities for wanting to raise more money but I have seen more often that the prices are not what I’d usually pay in a charity shop.


What your experiencing now is what I’ve always had in my town, there has NEVER been a good stock or bargain prices 🙁


i heard oxfam claimed 80% drop in people donating!! think the recession is hitting even the charity shops unfort. xo


I think its a mix of two things.. thrifting has become cool so you have to get in early to bag a decent bargain, and the recession has hit everyone where it hurts, and they’re trying to make money from their unwanted items instead of donating. I know I personally have taken to selling on clothes instead of donating so much simply because I have no money!

Pip ♥

I haven’t really noticed a decline in my charity shops (fortunately) and I don’t do car boots (not out of choice though, I’d love to but I always seem to be busy, and the closest one to me is still a bit of a trek!), but I do think that more and more people who would have donated the odd bit or bob to a charity shop are not turning to eBay, even if they can only make 99p!

Pip x


I’ve been collecting pretty glass bottles and jars for my kitchen – even got an old glass jelly mould that is so pretty the other day , but no decent clothes to be had either : (

Steph x

I’ve only recently got into charity shopping and have been able to find some really great items, my interests are mainly clothing and accessories. I recently wrote a guest blog post for Ms Wanda’s Wardrobe on ‘The Best Charity Shops in Suffolk’ and had a really good time ‘researching’ 🙂

You can find a link to the post from my personal blog, inspirationsandme.blogspot.com if you’re interested in taking a look (post dated 20th June)

Found an interesting website ~ http://www.choosecharityshops.org



I volunteer at a charity shop, and our donations have just gone up and up continuously. We have the odd quiet week, such as this week, but we’re generally snowed under.


The more people trying to sell secondhand clothing on eBay/ASOS Marketplace etc, the harder it becomes to make a decent amount of money per item. It’s often not worth the effort of taking photos, uploading and paying fees, so I think/hope people will start donating instead of selling ‘the good stuff’ on occasion.


My local charity shops fluctuate in stock levels/pricing etc an awful lot. There will be weeks where I can hardly walk past one without having to dash inside because I spotted something through the window, then suddenly I’ll spend a fortnight without so much as one real ‘find’. Charity shops have absolutely changed in the past couple of years I think, I preferred them pre-laminate floor makeovers! 🙂

Jem xXx


I have started looking in the charity shops more recently but they are far too expensive for what is on offer. Sometimes primark tshirts are £3 and they cost that in store. Not on! I do give all my stuff to charity shops as ebay is just far too much hassle for me (photos, photo uploader (the uploader nightmares are made of if my experience the other day is anything to go by), sellers fees, the post office!). I do like charity shops but I won’t be ripped off for sub-par goods, even if the money does go to charity. I do, however, always find that charity shops are good for books and homeware. I always seem to find a nice vase or cookery book, or even the odd dvd to come home with. And they are always dirt cheap.

I have also found (or rather, pinched this tip from more charity shop savy work friends) that charity shops in ‘rougher’ areas are always cheaper and have some really good finds.

Love your blog as always x

Alice, Pretty Confused

One of the reasons I don’t sell my clothes online is because I have gotten so much joy from second hand clothes, either from charity shops or passed down by friends. I would just feel mean if I didn’t offer stuff round to my friends first and then spread other stuff round my favourite charity shops xo

Imogen Smith

I’m forever walking out of charity shops disappointed by the lack of gems they have to offer. I suppose in these hard times everyone is doing what they can to make some extra pennies. eBay does have the option to donate the proceedings to a chosen charity however, and it’s a great shame that not a lot of people take advantage of this! x



I’ve picked up some lovely vases, teacups and crockery in my local charity shops over the last few months, but have noticed very little in the way of clothing or accessories. I understand that people don’t necessarily want to give away things (particularly clothing) that they’ve paid good money for, but I’ve always donated all of my unwanted bits and pieces to charity- it’s easy and a great way to support so many good causes.

The Robyn Diaries

I still find good stuff in charity shops but the prices have gotten so high. I have seen Oxfam have introduced ‘vintage’ rails in some of their shops and I don’t know how I feel about it, especially with the accompanying prices! Great post!! X

Lucy Rance

Me and my mum were just talking about this earlier! I completely agree, charity shops are nothing like they used to be. Now that it’s “cool” to shop in them, there’s either nothing good left, or everything is WAY overpriced! I’ve worked in a couple of charity shops (Oxfam and Keech Hospice Care) and both of them had eBay accounts where ALL quality/designer stuff was sold… so nothing good actually went in to the shop!

It’s such a shame… could this be the beginning of the end of charity shops?! I think they should close them all and put all the donations in one huge “thrift store” in every town – and all proceeds can still go to the chosen charity but it can all be together in one place. Would save running costs of shops and make for a much more exciting charity shopping experience! I’m just upset that I don’t live in America… i’d live in the thrift stores!!

Lucy x

Samantha Manzella

I’ve noticed the same thing. I like in NY, USA, so things are a bit different, but I’ve noticed the same patterns: there are less “good” stuff being donated to the local thrift stores, as people are reluctant to donate their good stuff for no profit. Plus, these stores have had to raise their prices to stay afloat; shopping at Goodwill just isn’t the same, though, when a knit cardigan that would’ve cost me $5 a year ago costs more like $15. A big reason why I love to thrift is its affordability…and with that down the drain, doing so just loses so much appeal. I hope things turn around soon, both in the UK and my neck of the woods!

– Samantha


I’ve found the same, I think less people are donating and more people are realising that charity shops can be great for bargains – I used to be a bit embarrassed about going to charity shops but now they’re always really busy and the good stuff gets snapped up quickly! x


wow, that zara dress for £4.99 = great buy! 🙂 we have always given clothes we don’t use anymore to charity shops, mostly salvation army and goodwill. i think it’s far better to do that than to throw away those clothes. 🙂

<3, Mimi


I work for a charity (that will remain nameless) that has its own shop which is just rubbish. When I started the job I excitedly visited fully intending to be a regular customer and was ver disappointed. The shop is far too full, stuff all crammed together and the stuff that is featured is not usually very attractive.
I think the problem may be that so many charity shops are run by people who not only have little idea about fashion and what is selling well on the high street, but who are also aggressively determined to hang on to their power at all costs so no-one else gets a look in to influence things.
I don’t mean to be awful but check out the staff next time you are in a charity shop and spot the power person usually helped out by people who would never challnge them. Then look at the stock and the window display and draw your own conclusions.


I have just bagged up a bunch of stuff to take to the charity shop. I could eBay it, but I wouldn’t get much and I would way rather any proceeds went to a good cause.
Thanks for reminding me I have to take that! =)


I think it’s the Mary Portas effect, charity shops (generally) are better laid out now but most round me have seen a massive jump in prices for some really quite awful stuff. As a result, I no longer call in all the time, merely because I know I can’t afford it. I used to call in regularly (read every other day!) and now I rarely go in because I know it will be the same tired stuff at massively inflated prices. I know charity shops have to make money but surely repeat custom is more valuable long term? It’s a difficult balance and those by me haven’t quite worked it out yet…

Maria xxx

lady liquor vintage.

I travel all around Lancashire charity shopping, so I usually always pick up something but I have seen a decline in good quality stuff in some towns or cities I go too. Whereas I used to leave with several bags in tow and £50 lighter, I leave empty handed now. But then other places I’ve started getting really good stuff. I’d really just recommend trying to branch out a bit more, because I know if I stuck to just charity shopping in my home town I’d be constantly disappointed! XO.

Cheap Kicks

I think most people (especially bloggers) shop in charity shops regular and seem to sell a lot on EBay, probably without even thinking about supporting the charities. I feel good when I donate and receive a letter telling me how much I’ve helped them raise, I even feel happy when I see a donation in the window so I also donate my old stuff xxx


I have some good charity shops where I live and am lucky enough to find a few items most weekends during my ‘saturday morning forage’ – the proces have gone up though and the quality on somethings can be a bit worrying- you learn to inspect things throughly before buying!

Its still fun and my favourite way to shop!


Hi Jen.
Thank you for blogging about charity shops. I work in one and you are completely right about the volume or stuff going down and the (general) quality. Everyone’s saving their pennies. Saying that, the particular shop I work in gets AMAZING donations and people are very generous. I think sometimes it depends on the wealth of the general area…There are lots of factors.
Anyway, my point is that everyone should keep donating and keep buying. There are some great bargains to be found!
I <3 Charity Shops


Leave a comment