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Charity Shopping and Gentrification: Top Trends of 2020

With charity shopping topping the charts of 2020 fashion trends, Catherine Mullner is here to give you the insider’s guide to the charity shops in St Andrews, along with this trend’s consequences


Image(s): Daily News

Author’s Note: Before I begin, I would like to stress that there are economic and political issues with charity shopping as a trend. I have the privilege to enjoy this activity as a creative pass time and a way to avoid the fast fashion industry to improve my environmental impact, but there are many people that do not have this choice. To write this article and not note the recent social impact that those who can afford to go elsewhere have would be negligible and irresponsible. This list will also exclude the Save the Children charity shop as it has been permanently closed this semester. Thank you.


Let me take you on a magical journey. You’re walking down South Street to meet a friend. It’s a sunny day in St Andrews, but judging by the clouds moving in, you don’t know how long that will last. You finally meet them, a little out of breath from speeding between grandparents on their daily stroll. On arrival, your friend sees you and says what you feel you’ve been waiting your whole life to hear:

“I love your top! Where did you get it?”

The clouds have parted, you see the light. Birds start singing “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga, and there’s nothing else you want to do. You look up to the blue sky above and scream to the heavens in a mighty roar:


This is something I’ve done more than I’d like to admit, and I’d like to take this time to apologise to any people in earshot I may have hurt during those moments. But for me, it’s not just the thrill of getting complimented on something I bought for £3. It’s about the mission I and every enthusiastic charity shopper embark on when we enter the shop: to dig through mountains and mountains of grandma jumpers to find the perfect one.

Within the last three to five years as well, a lot of trendy fashion “must-haves” have also been, coincidentally or not, staples of charity shops for years. Neutral cardigans you’d often see your gran wear out and call “snazzy”, loose jeans your dad dropped off after wearing the same ones for two years straight, and hair scarves have always been abundant in charity shops.

Whether this or coincidence or not, charity shopping has become incredibly popular in the last decade, particularly in the last five years. I would argue that this trends being charity shop staples is not a coincidence at all, but really made accessible and “trendy” due to underlying recent economic pressure and anxiety over individual environmental efforts in the US and UK. Art mirrors life, and this is no exception.

So, if you are one of those new charity shoppers, or haven’t had a chance to browse the shops in St Andrews, I would like to now present:

The (Extremely) Unofficial Guide to Charity Shopping in St Andrews


One of the most well-stocked charity shops in town, Barnardo’s also has some of the most friendly and helpful volunteers I’ve encountered. Every section is either organised by colour or organised by item if it is more niche.

Top Choices: oversized men’s jackets

Hidden Treasure: The craft section in Barnardo’s is in the very back left corner, which if you weren’t interested in the shelves of ostentatious wedding platter sets, you might not investigate. My favourite part of this craft section is an organiser that sits right at eye level, which is full of hundreds of buttons organised by colour.

British Heart Foundation

My favourite shop to wander in to and pretend some lovely woman is my gran for the day, the British Heart Foundation has more treasures than you’d think on sight.

Top Choices: blouses and women’s trench coats

Hidden Treasure: There is a wall on the left-hand side of the cash register filled with scarves galore! There are silk scarves for your hair, winter scarves, and bandanas all for £1-3. Whenever you feel in a rut with your outfits and need to bring some “spice” into your wardrobe, I am always of the philosophy that a scarf can change everything.

Cancer Research UK

Run by probably some of the sweetest volunteers in town, Cancer Research UK has a varied selection of sequin jumpers, deadstock decor, and men’s suits.

Top Choices: men’s shirts and grandma jewellery

Hidden Treasures: There is a section in the back of the shop that is raised up on a platform by a couple of steps. Although this section may look bare, there are two shelves below eye level that are full of both nonfiction and fiction books more recently published. My favourite finds there are cookbooks and travel books (the latter more so to decorate the flat).


The best-organised charity shop in town, Oxfam is a combination of clothing, books, and discounted stock.

Top Choices: grandma cardigans and small vases

Hidden Treasure: You can find books scattered throughout the entire shop, but I would recommend taking a minute to look through the shelves of books present immediately when you walk through the door. There you’ll find antique books for as little as £3 -- I’ve often found books published in the late 19th century!

*Oxfam has recently come under fire for their sexual harassment cover-up involving a senior aid worker in Haiti. If you choose to not shop at Oxfam with this recent revelation or other controversies, that is completely fair.

Salvation Army

Perhaps shelved and crowded on sight, the Salvation Army is the ultimate treasure trove for high-quality items you’d never expect to find.

Top Choices: cashmere jumpers and board games

Hidden Treasure: If you walk to the very back of the shop, there are two long shelves stocked with seemingly random household items, with more boxes lining the floor. If you go to your left, there are random paintings in beautiful frames, usually all for £8 and perfect for decorating your flat on a budget. If you go to the right, there are knick-knacks galore and random small kitchen appliances that are handy…I would also add that the first white shelving unit next to the front door is also jam-packed with purses in case you’re looking for an adorable shoulder bag.

Sense Scotland

From the window, Sense Scotland seems more like your gran’s living room than an active charity shop. Although their clothing selection is lacking, if you need to makeover your room on a budget, this is your place.

Top Choices: glassware and kitchen appliances

Hidden Treasure: There is a small section of jewellery located right before the cash register on the right-hand side. If you didn’t look for it, you probably wouldn’t give the wall there another glance, but I would argue this is my favourite jewellery selection out of all the charity shops in town.

Concluding Thoughts

According to The Guardian, the UK is supposed to send 235 million items of clothing to the landfill this year. There is something so horrendous about sitting down and typing that, knowing I as one person can’t even fathom 5000 pieces of clothing just thrown away. But this is the reality we are facing, unless we change it. I see charity shopping as a rest from the fast-paced online life we’ve all been forced to adapt to this year, but more than anything it is also a way to support charities while reducing my carbon footprint and environmental impact.

I won’t end this by calling for a sudden run to all the charity shops in town, but I do want to highly encourage to think of your clothing and purchases more seriously. The best way to avoid the gentrification associated with charity shopping, particularly in cities and low-income areas, is to shop online. Ebay, Poshmark, and Depop are all amazing options to explore- even Transition St Andrews has a shop on Depop! Fast fashion conglomerates aren’t going away anytime soon, but there are ways to show we don’t need them, and never did. Long gone are the days of being ashamed to shop “second hand”; the era of renewal and resurrection is here!


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