I’m a charity shop expert – the best places and times to visit to get the biggest bargains revealed | The Sun03/03/2023
FINDING a bargain in a charity shop can feel a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack – the rails of clothes and household items can be a bit overwhelming.
But with de-cluttering now a big trend, there are gems to be found among other people’s discarded belongings.
Jennifer Brady, also known as @charityshopgirlcsg on social media, is an online fashion influencer and second-hand fashion advocate.
She spends her free time scouring charity shops around the North West where she lives, and further afield, posting her finds on her Instagram and TikTok accounts.
She said her best finds have been a “perfect” pink lamp for her dining table, which she nabbed for just 99p, and a vintage pink leather jacket from upmarket clothing brand Escada for £8.
One of the designer coats would set you back more than £1,000 if you bought it full price, and even high street leather jackets cost around £100.
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“People think that it's just old bobbly clothes or old ladies’ outfits, and that’s just not the case,” she said.
“I'm trying to show people that it is possible to find unique items, ones that were made in Britain 40 years ago and are still in incredible condition.”
Her outfit combinations draw lots of admiration from her followers – and she has some top tips when it comes to finding a bargain.
Go early, and go often
“I go charity shopping probably four times a week,” Jennifer said.
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“When people say ‘oh I never find anything in charity shops’, I recommend they go in more often, because they are putting stuff out all the time.”
She thinks the best items go very quickly, and so if you go in a couple of times a week, you will be first when they are put on the rails.
If you’re looking for collectors items such as antiques or records then it is worth hitting your local charity shop early to beat the crowds.
“I used to volunteer for Age UK, and people were literally queuing up outside before the shop opened,” she said.
You could ask your local charity shops when they put out new stock on the shelves so you can time your visit.
Go to small towns
Jennifer also recommended seeking out charity shops in smaller places.
They havea better selection than those in big cities and don’t have as many people rummaging through them, she says.
“Venture out somewhere that you wouldn’t normally go, even if there’s only one charity shop there, and you might be surprised at what you find,” she said.
“There’s a charity shop near me on a pretty uninspiring retail park and it’s amazing – I’ve found Fendi shoes and Moschino bags in there.”
“I’m always looking for something that’s a little bit ‘different’, but I usually go in with an event or occasion in mind,” Jennifer explained.
She recommends having some idea of what you are looking for to help you rummage with more purpose.
It could be that you are looking for something to wear for drinks on a Friday night, or that you need some new work clothes.
Creating a moodboard or trying to copy a particular look can also help with deciding what you’re looking for.
Staying focused on a few particular items will make it feel less overwhelming.
“I constantly sort out my wardrobe and that helps me identify any gaps,” Jennifer said.
“I might start seeing that I’ve got a lot of jumpers, but no trousers to go with them, so I can specifically look for those.”
Starting with something you know you like to wear, like jeans or jackets, might also help you hone in on the things that really suit you, she said.
She did admit she sometimes “veers off” and comes out with something she hadn’t intended to buy.
“But knowing what you are looking for will help you stick to your budget too,” she added.
Think outside the box
Jennifer recommends checking out all of the sections in the shop for the best deals – even if you don’t think they are relevant to you.
“I'd say the men's section is probably my favourite because I love men's suits and tailoring, and I’ve found some amazing pieces there” she said.
She also suggests thinking about how you might repurpose bric-a-brac.
“I’m constantly picking bits up for occasions like Mother's Day, or to make Easter baskets for the kids, or to use for craft.”
Looking for seasonal items out of season can also be good, she said.
“I’d buy a Christmas decoration now if I saw it and really liked it.”
“Charity shops are a great way of creating or rediscovering your own style without spending a fortune,” Jennifer said.
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If you are only spending a couple of pounds on something then you might be tempted to buy something you wouldn’t normally wear – and that can be fun, she explained.
“Definitely don’t be afraid of having a bit of a play about with stuff.”
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