Dec 2, 2008

Charity Shop: A New Shopping Paradise

A2 Speech, Rebecca Chou

Have you thought about shopping can help others? In Britain, there are different charity organizations opening its own shops to collect donations which are things people don’t need anymore and sell them to those who don’t want to spend that much money or to those who are willing to help others because most of the revenue goes to support their specific purposes but they all have the same motive, that is, to provide others a better life. I like shopping in charity shops because I will never know what I will get and I can help different people with my own little money.

Charity shops are a type of social enterprise. They usually sell mainly second-hand goods donated by the public, and are often staffed by volunteers. Because the items for sale are free, and business costs are low, the items can be sold at very low prices. After costs are paid, all remaining income from the sales is used for the organization's stated charitable purpose. Costs include maintenance, municipal service fees, water, electricity, telephone, limited advertising and the rent or mortgage.

Based on the time limit, I will focus on the benefits of charity shops and if you are interested in more details, you may take a look of the handout with the most popular charity shops. Below you will see some pictures of them.

......Charity shops can provide three benefits.

First, it is a good way of fundraising for social welfare organizations. They sell second hand things from books, clothing, CDs, to furniture, footwear, cookware, toys…Almost everything you need in daily life. So the shops do not have problem of cost and they can sell them in very low price to attract people who don’t want to spend too much. They have their target consumers and when it’s the credit crunch now, more and more people will be interested in used goods. According to an article of the Guardian on July 13, they said “charity shops benefit from crisis”. What I wear today is all from charity shops. And guess what? It’s just about 10 pounds only!! You can find good quality things with little money. We may find excuses for ourselves not donate money to the social welfare organizations but we can’t resist the stimulation of shopping. It’s human nature.


Charity shops benefit from crisis

Middle-class shoppers are pouncing on bargains in charity shops and searching for savings in value supermarkets as the credit crunch bites.

Oxfam reports a sharp rise in browsers in its 729 stores. 'We have had an improvement in footfall and sales in the last quarter, if not a little bit longer,' said its deputy trading director, Barney Tallack. He said that just as in the 1991 recession, customer numbers are increasing - but it is sometimes hard to get the stock, as hard-pressed consumers hang on to their old clothes for a little longer.

In another sign of tightening belts, Asda reports this weekend that a quarter of its sales growth in the past year has come from 'AB' shoppers - those in the top social classes. Chief executive Andy Bond said 'a tough economic climate means that more and more people are shopping for value'.

Tesco corporate and legal affairs director Lucy Neville-Rolfe said rising energy and food prices were also leading customers to stock up on home insulation, composters and gardening equipment, while sales of energy-saving light bulbs have quadrupled, with over 10 million sold.

Second, they build up a specific social network for customers and their staffs. They recruit volunteers to be the shop assistants and most of them are elderly or unemployed people, students or housewives. They have plenty of time to decorate the shop, arrange the donations, and the most important is to socialize with people. It’s a great opportunity for them to talk to people, get in touch with others and get feedbacks from the customers to build up their confidence or release the emptiness. Sometimes they can also help customers who are normally disadvantaged families or elderly people because some of them will come to the shop buying nothing but be very happy to talk to them as they don’t have anyone to listen to them. All the volunteers are very friendly saying “Morning, sweet heart” and actually sometimes they do become friends of customers.

The last, it helps to reduce and recycle the waste. People used to throw away things they don’t need anymore; however, some may create different value of those unwanted things. If you want to donate old furniture, they can collect it for free. So why not give them away to charity shops? You can make profit for the charity and help others and make the garbage disappear at the same time. Take myself as an example. Before going back home, I brought a single quilt, a bed sheet and a pair of boots to the shops in Barnstaple and let others to re-use them with a very low price without any waste or I would be worried about how to empty the garbage bin in the shared house.

It’s probably not easy for us to have this kind of shops in Taiwan as we already have flea markets. But at least it’s another option for our government to improve the distribution of social resource and for all the social welfare organizations to attain their annual target with more ease. Moreover, being a volunteer is also a kind of citizenship education. With fundraising ability and an opportunity to help ourselves and others and to reduce garbage, charity shops are somewhere you can’t miss and have the potential to be a new shopping paradise.

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