Op-shop School Research Project

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Last week a school student put a message on Recycled Fashion's facebook page to ask if I'd like to complete a questionnaire to help her with her research project on op-shopping. I find her questions really interesting, so thought I'd share my answers, and also open up some dialogue for others to comment below, which may also help with the aforementioned school project?

1. What do you believe the purpose of Op-shops is?

My thoughts:
* To raise money for important charities and non-profit organisations,

* To provide second hand products to the public,
* To encourage consumers to buy second hand,
* To engage the local community, by way of volunteer time and commitment,
* Reducing the amount of unwanted products discarded to landfill

2. Why do you believe Op-shops are important for the community?

My thoughts:
Op shops are often staffed by volunteers in the local community.
Op-shops can therefore provide workers with a sense of acknowledgement, achievement, work experience and a way to gain new friendships.

3. How well do you believe Op-shops are utilised by the public?

My thoughts:
I’d say the percentage of general public that donate goods, far exceeds that of which actually buy products in op-shops, therefore op-shops are probably not utilised as much as they could be.

A change in some larger chain op-shops presenting themselves as boutique outlets rather than traditional op-shop settings may play a part in increasing sales and commitment to second hand shopping, but few op-shops are able to afford to present their stores this way.

4. What do you think could be done to improve Op-shop use by the community?

My thoughts:
An incentive card scheme might work, much like the ones offered in
Savers. Although Savers is not theoretically an ‘op-shop’, they do offer card incentives to anyone that donates unwanted items. Cards are stamped each time a donated bag is received. With each stamp, a percentage off will be allowed by the donator on next shop, i.e. one stamp will receive 5% discount (with one bag donation) up to 20% discount with 4 stamps (after 4 bag donations).

Other promotional activities which encourage the community to frequent op-shops more often would be campaigns such as the BuyNothingNew challenge and competition, which runs each October.

The majority of consumers are now online with internet access. Another way to connect with the community would be for individual op-shops to set up their own free facebook page. Photographs of interesting donations could be posted on their facebook page, allowing followers to interact, and possibly encourage a visit / purchase from their local store.

Readers, do you have any further thoughts or ideas to share on Op-Shops? If you are not based in Australia or New Zealand, your answers relating to thrift stores or charity shops would I am sure be equally beneficial

There is an additional online survey to gain a public opinion on op-shops which can be completed here



Leanne said...

1. To help op shops aid in helping those less fortune it, to give people a chance to save so much from going to the tip, allow people on limited budgets to buy clothes and other goods they may need but couldnt afford to buy new.
2. Help to keep low income people clothed for a reasonable price, and also allows volunteers to get some experience and a chance to get out of the house and make new friends.
3. Down my way i think they are used alot, although the amount of clothes that I see in the shops and various other items. I often wonder how much is actually going out compared to in. I am yet to see an op shop with nothing in it. (unless its closing down). I also think parking plays a big part, if its not in an area with good parking it can put people of. I also think the areas sometimes need to be looked at as well. Some of the dearer opshops seem to be in places where people are really low income and cant afford to spend $10 on a second hand pair of jeans.
4. Salvos have a card that gets stamped for every $10 you spend a day, and once you have 5 you can get 10 items at 50% of. Although I would love to see more incentives for people donating goods, but maybe more of an incentive for people donating useful products of not just their stuff they couldnt fit in their garbage bin. Might also encourage people not to leave it dumped outside the shops and beside the charity bins.
I also think sometimes for the charity run stores they need to look at their pricing. Its all over the place and some things cost more than new.

Personal note: I buy my daughter clothes from the opshop only if they are on the reduced to clear rack, the 50% rack or $1 racks. Otherwise im looking at paying the same price or more for something second hand that I can get for new. ie tshirts at kmart for $2-$4, looking at an op shop for same sort of tshirt looking at paying $3-$5.

I think the fact that the vintage look is in, its great to be able to get things like that at opshops for a bargain price.

Agy said...

This is an interesting school project! On the point about "4. What do you think could be done to improve Op-shop use by the community?", I really think that they should be more visible (well, in Singapore anyway) and more accessible. I'm not sure whether this is to do with the exorbitant rentals, but being located in the shopping belt would generate a lot of awareness, or perhaps near train stations. In Hong Kong, the Oxfam Charity Shop is located in Central Business District and I heard they are charged lower rental (not sure if it's still there now).

Anonymous said...

A couple of comments on improvements;

- I think that the price of basic clothing items should be dropped. While there's a lot of people op shopping to find something unique and vintage, there are still a large number of people who rely on op shops for cheap clothing. For example, when people go op shopping when they're about to start a new job but won't see their first paycheck for a fortnight, $8 for a collared shirt is quite expesnive - especially when you can buy similar on sale at Target for $10.

- An exchange scheme - bring in a bag of clothes, get $5 store credit. A good way to bring in people who donate but don't shop and might also reduce the number of people dumping bags out the front of stores.

Stacey said...

My thoughts:

- It sucks, but op-shop prices need to become more competitive with chain store prices. It seems to me that the prices in op-shops keep coming up, whilst the prices in Kmart etc. go down. I prefer op-shopping, but I think if most people have to choose between second-hand, and new for the same price they'll buy something new. Particularly baiscs likes t-shirts & jeans.

- I don't know what the op-shops themselves can do about it, but a lot of people still seem to have the "ewww, you're wearing someone elses old clothes, what if they died of a contagious disease" attitude. I think people need to be more educated about the fact that buying second-hand isn't disgusting.

my thrifty closet said...

interesting answers. Some of our op shops quite pricey here, especially Salvation Army, sometimes the prices are higher than the main stores. I wish they can have more reasonable pricing so as to reach out to the underprivileged families who struggle to make ends meet and also to encourage people to thrift. After all all the things they have are donated.


Anonymous said...

I like all of your answers. I op-shop predominantly because I like to recycle and ensure less landfill. I also just love browsing and when I can pick up bargains, it means I can spend my hard earned cash on more important things than "consumer goods". What I will say, however (like some of your other comments above) is that some op-shops are over priced - particularly the Salvos which I rarely frequent nowadays as I can often pick up the same thing new at a cheaper price. I think this stems from a number of factors:
- lack of product price knowledge
- the high costs of removing rubbing that people dump on charities
- trying (MAYBE) to ensure that people are buying items for their own needs, rather than reselling on ebay or at markets.
The last two make me sad, but may also be a reflection of people not knowing what to do (on short notice with no money) with their rubbish (they may not be able to afford tip fees) and may have little other means of making a buck.

I would also like to say that I don't care so much about the "decor" of the op-shop (unless the volunteers have fun doing it up), but more that it is clean and tidy and easy to "get around".

I would also like to see more charitable acts so to speak. For example, a friend of mine that rehabilitates wildlife had a bunch of swan babies (cygnets) in care after some nasty storms at Pt Cook last year and several op-shops refused to donate old sheets and towels to her when she was in desperate need (these guys make a mess!!!). She did get some in the end, but would not have been able to afford $4-5 each for these items. She is very clean and extremely organised and money is not generally a concern but felt annoyed that she was refused when in such dire need as a once off. Surely they would have some old items that are hard to sell....Anyway,I love op-shops and would love to see more of them. The more we recycle, the better!

Laura said...

Great answers! I'm not going to go into pricing issues as I already spouted enough about that myself today on Little Boutique.

I'd like to add to the comment above though: "I would also like to see more charitable acts so to speak. For example, a friend of mine that rehabilitates wildlife had a bunch of swan babies (cygnets) in care after some nasty storms at Pt Cook last year and several op-shops refused to donate old sheets and towels to her when she was in desperate need (these guys make a mess!!!). She did get some in the end, but would not have been able to afford $4-5 each for these items."

I think that is seriously sad. Yes, there are these new amazing boutique-type op-shops springing up, but the original point of having op-shops is to help the community.

I wanted to add to this comment because I have also heard of the opposite problem. Some op-shops tried to donate some of their excess goods (old material, clothes, etc) to some local clubs and schools, and got rebuffed! For example, a local surf club refused the offer of free wetsuits unless the op-shop volunteers dropped them off themselves! And when I say local, I mean a five minute drive away.

The manager of this particular op-shop was just trying to find a use for any excess stock that either wouldn't fit in the store or they hadn't sold. She was only trying to help local community groups, whilst at the same time recycling.

I think a little less of the 'me, me, me' syndrome and more community spirit would help us all a lot. No matter how 'boutique' an op-shop becomes, it's purpose is still (meant to be) to help the community and raise money for charity.

Becky said...

Speaking as an American who's been regularly thrift shopping since I was 14 or so, there's a couple of things I've noticed. I'm pretty much limited to Goodwill (and one Salvation Army) in my area, and with Goodwill in particular, I've noticed an increase in the prices to the point where they're almost comparable to cheap new RTW places like Forever 21. The other thing I've noticed over the last couple of years is that they're getting pickier with what sort of donations they'll accept. I realize there has to be some standards, but my fear is that if they keep making it increasingly difficult to donate, and people can get new clothes for the same price, that the whole thing will kind of die off. At least on the clothes end. I'm sure that the secondhand furniture will still have a market, if they're willing to accept some of it.

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