by Lucie Bright
I admit it: I’m obsessed with charity shops. I literally can’t pass one without popping in, just to check whether they’ve got an amazing bargain for me. I could happily spend all day rooting and rummaging, uncovering hidden treasures among other people’s unwanted tat. Plus charity shopping has green benefits: with Earth Day tomorrow, why not choose to save both money and the planet? Here’s a brief guide to some of my favourite thrift spots in west London, along with a few of my top tips for happy bargain hunting. Don’t forget your reusable shopping bag!
Putney is very fertile charity shopping ground. Within a short stretch on Putney High Street you’ve got shops run by Oxfam, Octavia, Cancer Research and the British Heart Foundation. There’s also my favourite, the Trinity Hospice shop, which has a boutique-style front room with vintage accessories and a large back room full of books and good quality bric-a-brac. For furniture, I’ve heard that the Trinity Hospice furniture shop on Putney Bridge Road is worth a look.
Oxfam on the High Road close to the top of Turnham Green Terrace has very good quality clothes, displayed beautifully, and usually some interesting toys and framed pictures at the back; the specialist Oxfam Books further down the Terrace is always brilliant, especially the cosy kids’ section. Cancer Research and Barnardos are regular charity shops with a mixture of stock; the two Fara shops (one for kids and one for adults) are more expensive, but are good for clothes and shoes, and still way cheaper and more sustainable than buying new.
They’re multiplying. There used to be three charity shops on the stretch of King Street near the town hall; at my last count there were five, not including the second-hand Amnesty bookshop, plus there’s a pretty good, spacious Oxfam opposite Kings Mall (which also does new gift items like craft kits and fair trade chocolate). All hold a nice mixture of bric-a-brac, books and clothes, and have a high turnover of stock. I like the menswear section in Traid for cool sweatshirts and Fair Isle jumpers. Hammersmith is truly charity shop heaven.
New(ish) to the Ealing charity shop scene is Mary’s Living and Giving, a new-style charity shop in aid of Save the Children, set up by Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas. Find it at 2 The Green, close to the shopping centre. It feels like an airy, modern boutique and all the stock is high quality—I tried on a great Boden top, which was priced at £12. They also have shops in Chiswick, Westbourne Grove, Fulham, Parsons Green and Barnes. Elsewhere in Ealing there’s a serviceable Cancer Research, various Oxfams including specialist book and music shops, an Octavia, and Fara. West Ealing has a good crop of charity shops as well which were packed with weird bric-a-brac when I visited. Weird as in good, obviously.
Traid on Shepherds Bush Green is good for clothes and accessories. I always seem to find fantastic kids’ clothes there, although it’s a small selection. Fara further along the Green is busy and varied; head into the W12 Shopping Centre on the south side of the Green for a huge Age Concern and the Furnish second-hand furniture empire: Mecca for anyone searching for cheap furniture, and all for a great cause. The friendly Octavia shop on Askew Road has a regularly changing selection of clothes, books, homewares and bric-a-brac and is always worth a look.
Charity shop top tips:
- Be open. Finding a great bargain is like falling in love: it’ll happen when you least expect it, but you have to be open to it. Don’t try to force it, and don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Your time will come.
- Be true to yourself. As famous west London resident William Morris once said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Don’t buy something because you think you should be the kind of person who’d own that kind of thing, or because it may, at some point, possibly come in useful. It won’t.
- Operate a one in, one out policy. Charity shops depend on your donations, and you don’t (presumably) want to appear in the next series of The Hoarder Next Door. So have regular clear outs—your local charity shop will welcome anything that’s clean and in good working orde
- Be nice. Most of the staff will be volunteers, and some may be elderly. Do take the time to have a chat. I’m astonished by how often I hear impatient customers tutting when it takes a few minutes to work the till. Chill out!
- Don’t haggle. It’s for charity.
About the Author:
Lucie is a native west Londoner who lives near Shepherds Bush. She’s a copywriter and would-be novelist with two children, a son and a daughter. When she’s not washing uniforms or forgetting to pay for school lunches, she loves to read books, walk in the park and hang out at charity shops and car boot sales. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.