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Shopaholics go Eco-friendly With Charity Shops

Sep 8, 2008
The House of Lords science committee have recently criticised the trend of 'fast fashion' which has developed in recent years. They feel that it is contributing to the spiraling amounts of domestic waste. Textiles make up 3% of the 30m tonnes of waste collected from households by local authorities each year. With cheaper shops like Primark becoming more popular it seems that people are willing to ditch the old fashioned idea of a few 'good' pieces in favour of cheap, poor quality garments that are worn a couple of times then flung. Fashions come in and out swiftly and are often so outlandish that garments are chucked after no time at all, causing an increase in waste clothes.

However the average household disposable income has dropped by 2,500 in the past year - for the first time in just over a decade! So now does not appear to be the time for shoppers to swap cheapy clothes for expensive ethical, long lasting purchases.

Despite the drop in general spending, charity shops are experiencing a boom in sales. The British Heart Foundation, one of Britain's biggest chains of charity shops with 560 stores, says sales are up by as much as 6%, and sales at Oxfam stores across the country have been seen to rise 7% in a year. Charity Finance magazine reports that profits across 72 charity shops are up 7.4% this year, and that sales have risen 5.7%. Whilst many chain high street stores are putting plans to expand on hold, the BHF is planning to up their stores by 40 and Age Concern is also opening more stores after seeing their sales rise by 9% last year.

Fashionistas are now becoming environmentally aware, realizing that they can get a unique vintage look from charity shops whilst preventing extra dumping of old clothes. Fashion experts have noticed a positive change in people's attitudes towards charity shops, and it's a step in the right direction that these secondhand purchases are not just driven by their low cost. "There has been exposure of certain high street retailers who have not been clean as they should be in their supply base, so if you want cheap clothes and a clean conscience then a charity shop is an obvious route," says Jane Shepherdson, the former boss of Topshop.

With the boom of eBay and schemes such as the recent Visa Swap clothes exchanging event in London, fronted by Lindsay Lohan, it's no longer embarrassing to wear second hand goods, in fact it seems to be a bit of a cool-status boost, with models like Agnes Deen boasting about purchasing from charity shops. "For shoppers who love the dig-and-delve experience of shops like TK Maxx, there is really not much difference in going to a charity shop - it is all about enjoying the experience of finding a bargain," says Lorna Hall, executive editor of fashion trade journal Drapers. Most importantly, "A certain section of consumers are turning their back on fast fashion and like the idea of recycling."

Oxfam have been trialing some clothes-only stores which sell a mix of fair-trade garms, items made from recycled fabrics and vintage clothing which will appeal to London's fashion conscious. David McCullogh, deputy chief executive of Oxfam, says, "We are not in that place where charity shops used to be, where people come to us because they have no money and nowhere else to go. We think we are much more attractive as somewhere where you can find unusual, interesting and one-off pieces of clothing," It seems that by being environmentally savvy with your clothes you could be turning yourself into an unassuming fashion icon!
About the Author
Hannah Walker is a writer for www.ecoswitch.com
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