Jacob Miller – Retail Operations Manager for Hobart City Mission in Tasmania, Australia – reflects on the charity retail industry: where we have been, where we are going, what works and what needs to be remembered for future success.
When I started in the industry over 15 years ago my job interview consisted of “Here is the key…can you open on Saturday?” The store was interesting with a plethora of preloved threads and objects, but the vibe was yet to be revolutionised.
The charity retail industry in the past two decades has gone from our customers shyly accepting compliments on their preloved outfits to “Oh, I know it’s fabulous – I got it at the Op shop*”. People from all walks of life run to the doorsteps of op shops, and sales have skyrocketed. Yet the revolution has been bigger than simply an increase in demand. Op shops have emerged from small, church-associated “dumping grounds” to High Street grooves filled with young people discovering treasures. As an industry we have gone from back streets to High streets, and we compete with mainstream retail.
But what makes us different from them? What is it that makes us viable, attractive, and relevant to customers? It can no longer be the fascinating tableau of products, or the concept of recycled textiles. This is now being challenged from every angle, with online platforms offering curated and interesting goods and major fast fashion houses bringing to the fore a focus on recycling.
For me there are three things:
- Our connection to mission – being organisations that are both mission aligned and mission driven;
- Our desire to connect to community and be hubs of local engagement; and
- Our constant yearning to be creative, innovative, and unique.
With all our revolution, the advent of the commercially focused charity shop, the increased demand and public acceptance of second hand, and then Generation Alpha desire to make less capitalist and more holistic shopping choices – it is the above three dot points that keep us relevant, in-market and the future leaders and stylists of the world.
*Op Shop – Opportunity Shop – the Australian term for charity shop. Dubbed opportunity for many reasons: the opportunity to find a bargain and the opportunity to give back to community.
Jacob Miller “is just addicted to Op Shops” and is the Retail Operations Manager for Hobart City Mission in Tasmania, Australia.
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