CHARITY shops can be treasure troves of bargain items – but you need to know where to look.
There are more than 11,000 charity shops in the UK, all of which rely on donations from the public or other businesses to run.
That means, depending on where charity shops are located, you will get different items.
Each shop is generally staffed by volunteers, and while there will usually be an overarching plan for organising and pricing stock, it is often up to individual staff members to design displays.
That makes them the experts in hunting down the best items – and in sorting all the random things which people donate.
So how can you make sure that you bag a good deal?
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Ross Dutton has been a manager for Crisis's charity shops for four years and currently runs the charity's Finsbury Park shop in London.
"The best thing about my job is the people you meet; from volunteers to customers and Crisis members [people who are experiencing homelessness and being supported by Crisis services], you meet people from all walks of life," he said.
Here are his top tips for charity shop know-how:
Choose your area
"If you’re looking for cool bargains, then our Finsbury Park store is the place to go," Ross said.
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"With a lot of students in the area we always get amazing and unusual one off pieces – but you need to be quick!"
As a rule of thumb, the posher the area, the better quality the clothes that are donated.
You never know what you might find, from someone's cast-off Dior blouse to a pair of hardly-worn Nike trainers.
Don't hang around
"The best tip is if you see something you like, buy it!" Ross said.
"I can’t tell you how many customers come back in for items they were undecided about and nine times out of ten, they’ve been snapped up by someone else.
"Most items in our stores have no more than a two week shelf life so you can’t hang around."
While it is good not to make a purchase too hastily, if you can afford something and you really like it then it's worth buying it before someone else spots it.
Sometimes charity shops will hold things back for you for a limited amount of time, but this isn't always the case.
Look out for cut-off labels
Some of your favourite high street stores will have deals with local charity shops to donate stock that isn't sold during their own sales.
Often part of the deal is that they need to cut the labels off the clothes.
So it's worth keeping an eye out for items that have had the labels purposely cut off, as these could be completely unworn items from top high street brands that have been donated straight from the shop floor.
Think either timeless or quirky
You probably aren't going to find the latest trends in charity shops.
So a good rule of thumb is to either buy timeless pieces such as trench coats, black dresses or suits, or something totally unique.
That way you will buy items which should be fashionable regardless of when they were made, or so unique that you are starting a whole new trend of your own.
Sometimes it's just luck
Ross said that much of charity shopping is being in the right place at the right time.
"We have a lot of weird and wonderful items donated and what's great is there is always someone who will love it," he said.
"We once received some fetish clothing which was a bit of a surprise!"
"My favourite donation has to be a beautiful red velvet chaise lounge that was donated to our Camberwell store.
"An elderly customer came in, who had always wanted one, and she bought it there and then – it was meant to be!"
Stay at home
If you want to go thrifting in the UK but don't fancy leaving the house, or simply can't face the idea of physically rummaging around, you can shop some charity shop items from the comfort of your own sofa.
While some charities have their own site, like Oxfam and Crisis. many also sell from dedicated eBay stores, such as British Heart Foundation and Scope.
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You won't get the range of bargains that you would get in a physical store, but if you're looking for something specific it may be worth checking online too.
These online shops also seem to often sell the more high-end – and therefore expensive – items, so if you're looking for cheap and cheerful pre-loved clothing it may not be for you.
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