Monday, 19 September 2011

Primark Killed The Charity Shop

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Let's put something out there straight away: I ain't no fashionista. Rifling about for floaty calf length skirts that channel thy inner vintage just isn't my thing.

I also hate fancy dress. It makes me feel awkward. At a push, and in a situation where everyone else in the whole entire world was dressing up and I wanted to fit in, I'd go for a full bear outfit for maximum coverage. No "is she? Isn't she?" ambiguity. It'd be "Yes, she is. And she is clearly a bear".

So what use do I have for a charity shop, if not to see 1970s potential in dated floral blouses or finding braces for Laurel and Hardy themed nights out?

To be honest, it's rarely clothing. Accessories tend to win it: functional belts that look a bit like the one I refused to pay £50 for in Urban Outfitters. Or cut price nearly-new books, especially in my local one where I'm pretty sure someone who works for a publisher just dumps all their freebies every week (Grace Dent's How to Leave Twitter and a hardback copy of one of my favourite books, A.A.Gill is Away in one haul this weekend. Score.)

I'd love to buy clothes from a charity shop, I really would. Because as much as I'm not a vintage lovin' fashion fiend, I do love a good bargain. With rent now a fixture in my banking calendar, and in need of a big Autumn-y cardigan, this weekend I took myself home and trawled the abundance of local second hand shops for just that. But sadly, I never did get one of the big cosy grandma cardigans I imagined would be in abundance.

Instead, I got a healthy dose of disdain.

Disdain for the sheer amount of average, worn-looking, generic gumpf from Primark lining the rails.

Not the nice dresses and catwalk cast-offs you see in the magazines, or adorning the backs of fashion conscious festival goers, either. The other stuff. The guilty stuff. You know, the bits you buy in bulk, purely because of the price.

Oh, it seems like such a bargain when you get home with 30 vest tops for a fiver, doesn't it? And when you've worn it, washed it and it now resembles more a tent than a top - well, you feel a bit bad shoving it in the bin. What a waste. Nah, let's put it in a black bag and give it to those in need; the grateful receivers of refuse they can't refuse - charity.

Looking at the rails, the tell-tale Atmosphere label was everywhere. I'm not sure what your non-UK equivalent would be, but here's a 101. Think cheap, miserable, sorry looking excuses for clothes which have travelled from third world slum to first world city, only to be slapped with a £1.50 price tag for the trouble. Disposable clothing worn once, replaced, and now donated in the hope that someone else might pay for it again.

Except they're not going to, are they? Would you? No. Because it's crap. And ironically, it'll probably be more expensive in the charity shop than it was to begin with.

Like this article says: "where something’s too cheap, someone, somewhere along the line is paying"

And despite what your conscience tells you, as long as Primark's in your donation bag,  it's not going to be the person rifling through the rails in a charity shop.


Lisbeth said...

I think Ebay killed the charity shop.

Instead of taking a bag of clothes to the local charity shop, everyone's flogging them for 99p plus p&p on fleabay.

Although recently the trend seems to be to start items at 2.99, 4.99 etc and a lot are remaining unsold.

With increased costs and the general all round crappiness of Ebay "customer service" (hah!), I think people will realise it's not worth the effort and start donating again. At least I hope so.

p.s. Am very jealous of your book source!

Ellie Rose said...

Too true.

Cat said...

A lot of charity shops won't actually display Primark stuff - they pass it on for rags instead! I don't have the patience to shop in Primark, or charity shops come to that, but I do agree with Lisbeth that eBay's had a big impact on donations.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Lisbeth - I was once guilty of this years ago, but like you say, the place is so inundated with 99p awfuls these days that it's hardly worth buying or selling there any more. There are a few things I'd turn to ebay to sell, but clothing is no longer one of them.

Ellie Rose - Sad state of affairs, is my local charidee shop.

Cat - That's what I thought, so I was surprised how much Primark stuff there currently is floating around, and priced higher than the retail price! It's a false economy all round.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree and feel too much guilt to enjoy those bargains.

I am dreadful at finding charity shop clothes bargains - but books are marvellous, and I also replace my own cheapy wine glasses (which have a tendency to leap off the table at parties) with charity shop finds. Often pretty, quirky glasses are sitting there for only 50p. Can't say fairer than that!

Katie Khan said...

I experienced exactly this same thing last weekend! I bought some lovely books in the local charity shop, but the clothing rails were all Atmosphered. The problem with cheap polyester is that it keeps the smell of armpits forever. Loved this post, Jo. Food for thought indeed.

looby said...

You're in the wrong shops! There's some fantastic stuff in my local charity shops up here (Lancaster / Kendal way). The last things I got were a Firetrap shirt in a a fine yellow and brown check and a unlabelled jumper who's label only said "100% Merino. Ecuador).

Come to Lancashire - home of classy secondhand clothes :)


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