Give Whilst You Get - The Charitable Way To Shop in the Hill
By Shopgirl_London on 12 March 2012
So you’ve scraped through January and February - now you’d like to treat yourself. Or perhaps your New years resolution was to do something good for others? Why not combine the two... Our Broadway is now home to 8 charity shops with many offering something a little different from what you may expect, with affordable, new and second-hand goods galore.
New store on the block is the Shelter charity store, which opened just before Christmas. The shop has incorporated the inherited fixtures and fittings into their décor to give the store a boutique like atmosphere. Like many of the charity stores I visited, it has a great selection of new products donated by high street favourites, such as Tesco, Warehouse and M & S. Of all the stores I saw, they have the best selection of kids wear with bargains such as baby wellies for £6.75 and kids toys starting from 99p. To add to that boutique feel they also have a great selection of jewellery, accessories and a (new) toiletries selection and a wide variety of ladies winter coats in a range of styles, prices and sizes. The store manager Jane admitted to having a warm welcome to Muswell Hill from the locals and lots of positive feedback on the style and layout of the store. As a new shop she has had a few comments on Shelter being the 8th charity shop on the Broadway - but with plenty of empty shops sitting idle, most are pleased to see a business that does some good for others as well.
At the Cancer Research shop (I visited the store which neighbours the Scullery Cookshop) I spotted goods such as a Burberry coat and a Jaegar suit on the racks. Local artist Margaret Kaminsky not only donates her time as a volunteer in the store but also gives them her art works which they sell on. This offers something much more special than the usual bric-a-brac you might expect to find in a charity shop. Store manager Ann has managed the store for 9 years now and has noticed a definite uplift in visitors post-credit crunch - which is why she needs more stock donations!
On my visit there were designer goods from Red or Dead and high street favourites from Monsoon, Reiss, Oasis and Topshop. All the items I found were in great condition and under £12. What a bargain! The store operates a stock rotation system, working with other Cancer Research stores to ensure goods are only displayed for 2 weeks at a time. There aim, is that there is always something new to be found whenever you pop in. The CR store are also set to launch a small electrical items area, including donated and new electrical products such as lights and DVD players – now that is something Muswell Hill needs. They also offer a handy selection of greetings cards and stationery as well as own-branded new handbags, ornaments, home furnishings and accessories.
The Broadway also benefits from a well-loved specialist charity shop in Oxfam Books; this store really does offer something different from the competition, with a good selection of rare books, CDs (well some people still use them!), vinyl and comics, which neatly captures the spread of subjects us Muswell residents hold dear (or perhaps hate, as we got rid). On my visit, I was lucky enough to find my next bookgroup book at a snip of £2 (compared to the online cover price of £8.99) but there was also a Playstation Guitar Hero game at £19.99, DVDs such as Lost in Translation and Kill Bill, CDs from £1.99 and my star buy, Howard Chaykins American Flagg for £4.99 (net price £10). Another gem that shop manager Sam has recently seen pass through her shelves was a near mint condition Beatles vinyl which was quickly snapped up. Was that any of you lot? Of every £1 made, 83p goes directly to emergency response and development campaigns (with the remaining 10p going on running costs and 7p invested into generating future income.). So that Beatles record is sure to have generated some great funds! Oxfam also sells a selection of ‘unwrapped gifts’ – these, allow you to buy a loved one a well in a developing country, which will help solve one local villages water problem. It’s a great alternative to traditional gifts - especially for someone who really has everything they need!
It’s spring and for those of you keen to do a life-laundry Spring clean, all the stores on the Broadway are keen to receive your donations. The Cancer Research store would love to receive your clothes, small electrical goods and general clutter; Shelter would welcome your shoes, accessories, clothes and will also take your worn out garments and home furnishings for ‘ragging’ which they sell on to specialist recycle companies. The Oxfam Bookshop would love any 1st edition Charles Dickens you may have lying around but failing that, will also accept your CDs, books, vinyl’s and DVDs. Or, if you fancy going that step further, why not donate some of your time by getting behind the till? All the stores need volunteers either behind the scenes or front of house and there’s no minimum amount of time they need you for – just a couple of hours a month is fine (and a great chance to spot the bargains before anyone else!). Oh yeah – and opting for Gift Aid when you purchase something means the charities receive an extra 25% from the government on top of the money they make - it’s a bit of a no-brainer really.
One rule of thumb they did pass on, was to remember to only donate goods that you would be willing to buy yourself. Moth eaten knitwear, shrunken jeans and odd socks are a no-go; but that coat that is just sooo last season, the skirt you can’t do up and that hat you wore once to a cousins wedding may well be just what someone needs.
So that’s it. A few facts and figures from a quick ramble around Muswell Hill’s charity shops. Next time you get that urge to refresh your wardrobe or buy some knick-knacks for the mantle piece, why not check out the local charity shops first – you never know what you might find.