A Visit to an Op Shop Sorting Facility

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

If we donate a box or a bag of unwanted items to a small charitable opportunity shop, it is likely that volunteers will sort through our items in the back of the same store, and the good stuff will be taken back to the shop floor for resale.  However, some of the larger charity shop chains that have stores scattered across the country, do not sort through their own donations, instead, bags and boxes are collected by trucks and taken to a large sorting facility, with an army of picking staff ready to filter through the good from the bad.

Some of you may remember, I have been working closely with The Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) community stores, by restyling outdated clothing, ready for resale in their Hunter Gatherer retail shops. As a result, I have been fortunate to visit 'behind the scenes' of The BSL sorting facility in Brunswick.

Quite giddy with excitement, I imagined a huge warehouse resembling some sort of giant jumble sale, with mountains of clothes to wade through, and piles of muddled up bric-a-brac.  My vision was far from the reality, with a well managed, relatively tidy set-up.

Large crates are filled with donations ready to sort.  Once the broken and torn is separated from the resalable items, the good stuff  is boxed and set aside to be distributed to The Brotherhoods' 21 community stores (op shops) across Victoria.

The Hunter Gatherer stores pride themselves on stocking the best vintage clothing and accessories, and have their own dedicated section within the warehouse.  Pickers have put aside wheelie bins filled with potential vintage goodies; shoes, coats, hats, trousers, belts, frocks, bric-a-brac and more, ready for The Hunter Gatherer staff to filter through, and decide whether the items would be right for their stores.  The items that are not suitable for Hunter Gatherer are not trashed, but are distributed to the regular BSL community stores.

This little area here, is for volunteers such as I, to repair or rework broken clothes:

You'd be forgiven for thinking the following image is taken from the library scene in the movie Ghostbusters, but no, it is infact the warehouse of Brotherhood Books, a Social Enterprise from the BSL which sells high quality books to contribute funds to the Brotherhood’s charitable operations.

 "Over the last 10 years, we have received in excess of 45 tonnes of donated books, and the collection continues to grow." Brotherhood Books

Lots and lots of donated fridges:

Ever wondered what might happen if you donate a fridge to the BSL?  These fridges are tested by onsite electricians, if they work, great, they're ready for resale, if not, then its bye-bye fridge, they are disassembled, and sold for spare parts.  A great recycling initiative, much better than taking a broken fridge to the tip to be thrown into landfill whole.

I spent the morning helping the Manager of Hunter Gatherer from the St Kilda store sort through her wheelie bins, she tells me her sorting day is one of the best parts of her job, like 'shopping for free'!  I can see the attraction; just like browsing any thrift shop, your day would be filled with nostalgia and excitement on finding a hidden gem.

Oh hai there, Your Majesty.

An interesting morning, I hope to go back another day very soon.



Anonymous said...

On goodness I'd relish an opportunity to visit a place like that.

Gracey the Giant said...

Very cool. I really enjoyed reading about the "behind the scenes" aspect of thrift stores (or Op Shops).

Far said...

What a fabulous place! Thanks for sharing!

Glamour Drops said...

This is quite fascinating - the scale is enormous.

Patti said...

Thanks for sharing these "insider" secrets - you are doing good work!

Lyndel said...

wow thanks for sharing that. I work for a largish independent Op shop, and our sorting is more or less along the same lines, but nowhere near that scale. So interesting to see how the Brotherhood does it. We only have one outlet, but we do store winter/summer in the alternate season (our year only has two seasons, LOL)

Something Else said...

Wow! What fun. What a great job the Hunter Gatherer staff have. :)

Perdita Tinsel said...

Very interesting! Some charity shops sort centrally like this, and some manage their own stock in the UK.

Charity Shop Chic said...

Really interesting, thanks Erica

Linying Mak said...

Don't mean to sidetrack, but I was really impressed by the quality of the clothes there. I even found a Marithe + Francoise Girbaud dress. And the manager knows how to do his window! What not to like?

Mecwacare Op Shop Windsor
52 Chapel St Windsor VIC 3181‎

East Malvern Op Shop. Mecwacare is a not for profit organisation offering residential aged care, respite care, in-home support, community programs, disability and nursing services.

Laura said...

Wow, great insight Erica. I really enjoyed reading about it and learning more!

cookiecrumbs said...

Great post. I recently went to the Anglicare sorting facility up in Sydney - similar but on a smaller scale. They have a public 'shop' where you can dive through a few of those big tubs, and pay by the kilo! Funnily enough they also have a 'boutique' store on the same site.

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