Charity Shopping in Norwich: First Impressions

Musty smelling rooms, hand-written labels and plenty of fleeces

If you’ve shopped in charity shops before, you might understand the feeling which I experience, all too often, of absolute outrage when something costs more than a couple of quid. “FIVE POUNDS for a skirt? Never!”. It’s something that being a regular charity shop lurker does to you, it raises your standards and it lowers your propensity to pay anything half decent for often beautiful, unusual or simply necessary items of clothing.

Norwich marketplace is a great place to find some old vintage grams.

Moving to Norwich for uni from Brighton, a self-proclaimed charity shoppers heaven, I was anxious to learn the local second hand shops. Thankfully, upon stepping into an admittedly musty smelling Age Concern for a browse, I experienced that familiar ‘feeling’.

That feeling of being a bit annoyed at the handwritten price label probably penned on kindly by some ageing volunteer. Now, for all the shameful aspects of my outrage at struggling charities charging reasonable amounts for nice clothes, it is also something that should be celebrated. This is because it tends to be a sign that there is STUFF TO BUY. And in my case, plenty of it.

The iconic wolf fleece featuring not one but three wolves.

Perhaps the less bargain orientated of you might like to remember, what I so regularly forget myself, that charity shopping is actually a good thing to do. And not just for your wardrobe and your purse. In my couple of drop-in sessions to various charity shops about my new town, a total of £7.96 was raised for Age Concern, a charity which provides care and support to elderly people, an area of social care which has been hard hit by cuts in public spending.

With my purchase of the first wolf fleece (which weirdly gets more compliments than anything else I wear), a reasonable £4.50 was spent at the Sue Ryder on Earlam Road, a charity which raises funds to provide hospice care.

Blue jumper with gold buttons and red stripy skirt, all for under a fiver. The success of the first fleece turned me into a weird collector…The second wolf fleece was bought by a friend in Sue Ryder

And it doesn’t stop there. We can even feel easier about our environmental impact after spending a couple of quid at the PDSA. The textile industry is one of the biggest pollutants in the world, with textile waste accounting for five percent of landfill space and textile treatment and dying making up 20% of all fresh water pollution.

Whilst I’m by no means claiming that my purchase of some top from British Heart Foundation is saving the world from catastrophe, it’s definitely true that someone who browses charity shops will end up popping into Primark or New Look to top up their wardrobes a lot less.

Bleak as it might sound, as long as people are dying, moving house or simply following trends, charity shops will exist and there will be stuff to find. So it doesn’t matter where you are, if you get into the habit of popping into charity shops fairly often and don’t shy away from spending a few quid on something a bit different, you are guaranteed success. And in my case, lots of compliments on my old-lady wolf fleece.

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University of East Anglia