Whatever you want to call them, charity stores are all the rage nowadays usually owned and operated by organisations who offer a wide variety of services from counselling to help lines and clothing & feeding the disadvantaged The underlying goal of a charity store is a very noble one (there is no disputing that), anyone who has the disadvantaged in mind and wants to make a difference has my vote for moralist of the year. As someone who grew up in a household that didn’t always have what everyone else had (I have 5 sisters), a household of 6 kids isn’t exactly a recipe for a rich life.
How do charity stores actually stay afloat? If you’ve been into an op shop lately you probably noticed they’re a lot more expensive and savy then they were 10 or 15 years ago. When I was a kid it always felt like a somewhat embarrassing experience going into an op store (my perception was they were for the poor to shop at). In this day and age op shops are so expensive that the poor and disadvantaged can’t even afford to shop there. You’re more likely to find a better deal on home-wares and clothing at a store like Big W or Target than you are at an op shop.
Why are they so expensive?
Are the operating costs of these organisations so high that they need to price their goods sometimes above retail prices to stay afloat? As someone who used to volunteer at a Lifeline processing factory where the goods are delivered in trucks and a bunch of volunteers sort through the goods and put them into large metal bins (shoes, clothing, toys and one for rubbish). Most of these larger organisations rely on volunteers to run their stores, to sort through their donations and keep things running. This I confirmed with a friend who is a consultant for a company like North Shore Advisory Inc., he assured me that without volunteers, such operations would not exists as they do.
I’ve seen countless times t-shirts priced at $8 to $10 (the same price you’d find a t-shirt at Target for), so-called vintage clothing priced anywhere from $50 to $400 and untested electrical goods priced between $10 and $250. The real issue here is that the pricing is usually handled by the same kind old ladies who serve you at the counters of each store. There is no single pricing authority and that’s the issue.
One person might see or know something is worth money and price it as such and another might lack any understanding of how much something should be and overprice it thus rendering it undesirable for sale.
The fun is gone
I remember as a kid my grandma and mother would love nothing more than to head out to as many op shops on the weekend as they could and buy up massive bags of clothing, shoes and brick-a-brack. You used to be able to fill a bag with any clothing from most charity stores for like $10, we are talking a massive black garbage bag as well and it would sometimes include shoes as well. As someone who grew up in a large family, a lot of the clothing my family wore was from op shops, in this day and age a family like the one I grew up in wouldn’t be able to afford to clothe themselves from op shop clothing.
Not only has the budget aspect been eradicated but the fun is gone. Trawling through used goods at an op shop used to be a fun experience because you knew no matter what you would find you wouldn’t be paying retail prices for it. in this day and age you might find something you really like only to discover it has been priced at $100 when in reality it’s probably not worth more than $20.
How to fix the problem?
I’ve often joked with my girlfriend that I should become an op shop adviser. A person who goes around and audits stores based on how much they price their goods and advises them on proper pricing practices, while I don’t pretend to be an expert I know when something is being priced too high. Considering the goods were donated in the first place and any sale at any price is considered a profit as there was no outlay to purchase anything for sale the only costs left are operational and the rest is profit for the organisation. What business wouldn’t love to be given free stock that they can sell at a profit?
Isn’t it better to sell a lot of items at a little price than it is to sell fewer items at a larger price? It doesn’t matter if you sell an item for $5 or $50, the op shop is getting 100% of the profits; no middle man and no vendor or brand to pay. There is a double-edged problem here: if you lower prices then those from Etsy stores and second hand stores will scoop up a lot of cheap items and if you keep prices high you’re potentially losing out on thousands of sales a day.
Does it really matter who is buying the second hand goods? Any sale only benefits the op shops selling them in the end even if it means legitimate purchasers miss out, the end goal is being fulfilled to make the organisation money to help others.
This is just one of the problems with these charity shop as they call them. The prices sometimes may be too high, really.
If you think about it, it is a charity shop, not a shop for the poor. So the main goal is to collect money for charity, not provide cheap clothes. Although it should have reasonable price for something that is not new/second-hand/no warranty/etc.
But the bigger problem with most of the charities is that there is not enough information about how much they make? How much goes to maintain the charity itself? How much goes for salaries? What happens with the stuff that does not get sold? Why is not part of the things sent directly to the people that need help (really poor countries) and so on.
It may sound as a lie or over exaggerated story, but I have heard of charities that actually spend a lot of what they make just to support themself, and only few of the income will go to the needy.