Going Green, Second-hand Scavengers

I op[t to] shop

Opportunity shop n. Aust., NZ a shop run by a church, charity, etc., for the sale of second-hand goods, especially clothes. Also, op shop. (via Macquarie Concise Dictionary 4th Edition)

Once the territory of Centrelink/pension cardholders, op shops are now frequented by shoppers on all sorts of budgets. According to The Age, they’ve ‘defied the doom and gloom in the retail sector and experienced a surge in sale. The increase…has been spurred by two things – the mainstream adoption of op-shopping and a reduction in discretionary spending’.

With op-shopping on the rise, op-shop blogs and bloggers have started popping up online. I Op Therefore I Am is one such blog and acts as a communal trophy shelf for treasure-hunting locals. While posting up some finds on the site, I managed to convince bloggers I Love to Op Shop and Lisa@SimplyMe to talk about their love of the humble op shop.

Must Be Thrifty: Thanks again for volunteering to answer some questions. So, why op shop?

I Love to Op Shop: There are so many reasons…The environmental benefits are really important to me personally, there are far too many perfectly good second-hand items about. I also love the variety that an op shop holds, the colours, the styles, the brands, the eras…It’s just much more of an exciting experience to me.

Lisa@SimplyMe: I love retro and vintage clothing and homewares, but most of all I love the thrill of the chase and rifling through racks to find the gems.

Retail shopping just doesn’t have the same appeal once you realise what you can buy for a few dollars!  It helps with my budget (and I can justify shopping more often!) plus it’s sustainable and environmentally friendly to reuse and recycle. I also feel as if I am contributing to charitable causes when I buy from charity run op shops. Everyone wins!

Must Be Thrifty: What can you buy?

Lisa@SimplyMe: Anything! Clothing, homewares, house-decor items, furniture, baby and children’s items and toys. Some op shops or chains will only stock certain items; do your research online before shopping in person if you are looking for something in particular.

I Love to Op Shop: Some shops are limited on size and will concentrate more on clothes and bric-a-brac but the larger stores will sell furniture at bargain prices and a great selection of toys or sporting goods. I had a lady comment on my Facebook page that they had just had a donation of a prosthetic leg in that week, another lady advised they were stocking pretty much everything including at that time a kitchen sink!

Must Be Thrifty: A kitchen sink? That’s probably better than the toilet seat someone had donated to the Myrtleford op shop!

What is the strangest item you’ve bought or seen for sale at an op shop?

Lisa@SimplyMe: I have a few favourite finds and buys.
I thought that this vintage TV turned aquarium was fantastic. I have also found some very unique kitsch items, such as this baby doll mug.

I Love to Op Shop: I’ve attached pictures!

We actually bought the ‘Potty Fisher – The game for the avid fisherman’!!  This is the sort of crap I think people buy at Christmas when it’s an hour until closing and Uncle Pete still hasn’t got a present!  It had a $29.95 price tag and was still sealed so I think Uncle Pete laughed for two minutes and op shopped it after Xmas!  It included a blue felt ‘pond area’ that you could place by the toilet, an inflatable fish bowl, a do not disturb sign, a fishing rod and several magnetic fish.  We used it as a toy for our toddler though (no where near the bathroom) and it cost us $4.95 from the local Salvos!

I also bought this Vegemite placemat – it has a magnetic piece of toast (shown on the plate in this picture) [that] you can move…around with your cutlery. It’s very cute and kept my son amused at mealtimes when he was smaller.

Must Be Thrifty: With the gentrification of the traditional daggy op shop (think Australian Red Cross’ Red Threads), it’s getting harder and harder to bag a bargain. Are the bargains still out there and how do you find them?

Lisa@SimplyMe: I really hate overpriced op shops. I have seen some Kmart tops priced at more than they would have cost originally at Red Cross op shops…

I Love to Op Shop: Some people treat op shops like they owe them a bargain, I find this a frustrating attitude.  If the item is discounted from its original or known value it’s a good deal, if you think it’s too expensive leave it and keep shopping.

Must Be Thrifty: Ouch. Note to self: op shops + bargaining = touchy subject. Nevertheless, both of your views are valid. The Leader occasionally publishes articles such as ‘Port Phillip op-shops urged to have a bit of heart’ which discuss how op shops are pricing items beyond lower-income budgets. Having said that, the money raised does go back into the community, so we shouldn’t grumble too loudly. In fact, it’s considered bad form to haggle at an op shop. I suppose it’s best to shop around?

Lisa@SimplyMe: It’s trial and error really, some op shops have reasonable prices and others are way too overpriced. Once you have visited them you’ll know which ones to return to, but it also depends on who is pricing the items sometimes and whether they know what reasonable prices are or not. I also find that country op shops are a lot cheaper than city ones (country op shopping is such a fun day trip!) and you can pick up some great bargains at garage sales and markets too.

I Love to Op Shop: I’d also always suggest speaking to the staff if there is something you need, sometimes it may be out the back or they may be able to take your details and call you if something comes in.

Must Be Thrifty: Any tips for op shop newbies?

I Love to Op Shop: Keep an open mind and keep at it. If you don’t get lucky this week you may next week.

It can also be good to think ahead – my son is almost three and if I see good quality clothes in sizes 4-5 I’ll buy them and store them for later.

The same applies with things like buying unseasonal clothes – the chances of the same item being there when you actually need it will be far less likely simply because there will be a lot more demand for it…

Lisa@SimplyMe: Op shop when you’re in the mood for a treasure hunt. Try different shops, persevere and look at people’s blog postings showcasing their op-shop buys to give you hope and inspiration! The blogging world is what really got me hooked on op shopping – I always think, if they can find these amazing things, I can too… And I have!

Must Be Thrifty: Thanks I Love to Op Shop and Lisa@SimplyMe.

You’ll find Melbourne-based blogger I Love to Op Shop at ilovetoopshop.blogspot.com.au, where she posts about her love of op shopping and gets in touch with a few stores around Australia.

Canberra-based blogger Lisa@SimplyMe posts her thrifty finds (whether purchased or not) every week on her blog lisasimplyme.blogspot.com.au, along with thoughts on child rearing, bargain hunting, and the occasional social commentary.

3 thoughts on “I op[t to] shop

  1. Great interview! I just wanted to add a different point of view on some one who op-shops for ‘high’ fashion, or who intentionally seeks out expensive things. I believe everyone has different ideas of ‘bargains’, much as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have spent $60 on a vintage Burberry bag in an op-shop in Malvern, and my biggest op-shop purchase EVER was on a Dolce and Gabbana trench coat at a charity store in the UK last year (equated to about $300, but absolutely beautiful). To me, these are timeless purchases and therefore, worth it.

    It really equates to knowing your products and what they are worth. I think that’s what is important in op-shopping. You can’t find a bargain unless you know what you are looking for.

    1. Good observation there, Laura.

      I confess, I do sometimes spend an absurd amount of money on some of my op shop items, but these tend to be collectable retro pieces and hopefully will have a good resale value should I wish to part with them later on.

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