Guest Blog – The rise of the Charity Shops

The rise of the charity shops…

In the evolving ‘green’ world that we live in today the retail high street looks somewhat different compared to a few years ago. One of the reasons for this is the ever growing charity sector taking charge and springing into empty units next to mainstream retailers. Some even replacing empty buildings previously occupied by well-known high street brands.

The big question… why?

The simple answer is that the stereotypical perception of a charity shop is no more! The old fashioned seconds are now being transformed into the ‘hip’ things to buy, more importantly at half the cost! Whether it is upcycling, recycling or feeding yourself with that feel good factor – charity shop hopping is the way forward!

Merchandising sells…

The real head turner however are the competitive visual merchandising skills that are sweeping through charity shops across the nation. Proving that there most certainly is a ‘Mary Queen of shops in us all!’

You only have to browse through the charity shop visual merchandising page on social media site Facebook to sample some of the innovative ideas that are providing inspiration and guidance on an abundance of great displays!

No matter what you are selling as a retailer the importance of it looking good is essential. Whether this be new or second hand goods, consumers still expect a high standard of displays. By imprinting a vision in consumers’ minds through innovative displays you are more likely to not only sell goods but link and up sell too.



The upper hand…

The visual merchandiser recently highlighted the importance of display drawing close attention to the up and coming charity shop experience. The findings concluded that the general public still expected the same experience as if they were shopping in a mainstream high street store. Key elements included; product presentation, adequate floor space to roam freely teamed with visually pleasing displays. The only downfall highlighted was from the nature of the single unit goods in charity shops which proved difficult when looking to create structure and organisation within a store. However I can’t help but feel this so called ‘downfall’ is just the opposite. The vast mix of donations add a unique twist to merchandising encouraging exclusivity through one off items. Additionally the thrill of finding that hidden gem becomes all the more rewarding.

A further advantage for visual merchandising in charity shops falls under the all-important change of seasons. Many charities store there out of season clothing in order to change over stock and displays at the correct time of year. Unlike main high street retailers who have specific dates and launches for new season stock the charity scene can adapt as and when the weather decides to change. (As we all know this is highly unpredictable in the UK!)

This also applies to specialist vintage and retro stores as most of the items often come full circle. Charity shops can be one step ahead of the game at all times catering to the specific needs of their customers through the variety of stock they receive.

Oxfam in recent years carried out a trial where 35 of their shops were revamped to add that chic sought after feel. Amazingly through improved access, careful product placement and innovative visual merchandising sales increased 10-20 percent. Consumers desire a positive shopping experience wherever they are on the high street and the chance of bagging a bargain only adds to the buzz.

The only one downfall in my eyes is that with the rise of innovative and engaging displays, consumers are quite often mistaking charity shops for high end boutiques!

So on that note take pride in your charity shop, step away from the clutter and encourage the flutter!

This blog was written by Harriet Webster, Retail Visual Merchandiser/Events Manager at Valley CIDS