I’m a charity store expert and here are my six tips for getting a good deal

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CARITY shops can be treasure troves of discounted items – but you need to know where to look.

There are over 11,000 charity shops in the UK, all of which rely on donations from the public or other businesses to operate.

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There are over 11,000 charity shops in the UKCredit: Alamy

This means that depending on where the Charity Shops are, you will get different items.

Each store is usually staffed by volunteers, and while there is usually an overall plan for organizing and pricing inventory, it is often up to staff members to design the displays.

This makes them experts at finding the best items – and sorting through all the random stuff people give away.

So how can you be sure you’re getting a good deal?

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Ross Dutton has been director of charity stores at Crisis for four years and currently runs the charity’s Finsbury Park store in London.

“The best thing about my job is the people you meet; from volunteers to clients and members of Crisis [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:

Select your region

“If you’re looking for bargains then our Finsbury Park store is the place to go,” said Ross.

“With lots of students in the area, we always get some amazing and unusual unique pieces – but you have to be quick!”

As a general rule, the more chic the area, the better the quality of the donated clothing.

You never know what you might find, from an abandoned Dior blouse to a pair of barely worn Nike sneakers.

Not lagging

“The best advice is if you see something you like, buy it!” said Ross.

“I can’t tell you how many customers come back for items they were undecided about and nine times out of ten they were bought by someone else.

“Most items in our stores don’t last more than two weeks, so you can’t hang around.”

While it’s good not to make a hasty purchase, if you can afford something and you really like it, it’s worth buying before someone else notices.

Sometimes charity shops hold things back for you for a limited time, but that’s not always the case.

Beware of cut labels

Some of your favorite high street shops will have agreements with local charity shops to donate stock that is not sold at their own sales.

Often part of the deal is cutting the labels off the clothes.

It is therefore worth keeping an eye out for items that have had their tags deliberately cut off, as these may be totally unused items from big name brands that have been donated direct from the store.

Think timeless or quirky

You’re probably not going to find the latest trends in charity shops.

So a good rule of thumb is to buy timeless pieces such as black trench coats, dresses or suits, or something totally unique.

This way, you’ll be buying items that should be trendy, regardless of when they were made, or so unique that you’ll start your own new trend.

Sometimes it’s just luck

Ross said a lot of charity shopping happens in the right place at the right time.

“We have a lot of weird and wonderful donated items and what’s great is there’s always someone out there who will love it,” he said.

“One time we received some fetish clothing, which was a bit of a surprise!”

“My favorite gift has to be a beautiful red velvet lounge chair that was donated to our store in Camberwell.

“An elderly customer came in, who had always wanted one, and she bought it on the spot – it was meant to be!”

Stay at home

If you want to save money in the UK but don’t feel like leaving the house, or just can’t cope with the thought of physically rummaging around, you can buy charity items in the comfort of your own sofa.

While some charities have their own site, such as Oxfam and Crisis. many also sell through dedicated eBay stores, such as British Heart Foundation and Scope.

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You won’t get the range of bargains you’d get in a physical store, but if you’re looking for something specific it might also be worth checking online.

These online shops also seem to often sell the most high-end – and therefore most expensive – items, so if you’re looking for cheap and cheerful pre-loved clothes, this might not be for you.

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