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What is a Charity Shop?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A charity shop is an establishment which sells goods for the purpose of raising funds for charity. Some examples of organizations which use charity shops for fundraising include the Salvation Army, Oxfam, and Goodwill. Charity shops can work in several different ways, ranging from stores which sell entirely new goods to shops which sell goods donated by members of the public. Often, a charity shop is an excellent place to get a good deal while also benefiting a charitable cause.

The history of charity shops appears to date to wartime Britain, when several organizations started selling used goods to raise charitable funds. In a classic charity shop, members of the public donate things they no longer want, and the shop sells them. Because the goods are free, they can be sold at very low cost, appealing to members of the public and ensuring a rapid turnover. New goods may also be sold at a charity shop, or a mixture of old and new can be on display.

Although some members of the public view charity shops as an excellent place to jettison unwanted stuff, charity shops are actually very picky about what they will take. Donations are carefully sorted by people who are experienced in the charity shop market to determine what will sell and what will not. Unsaleable goods may be sold to rag companies, junk collectors, and other individuals, and objects with no value will be discarded in a landfill.

In some regions, a charity shop may specialize in high-end goods, such as designer fashion and high quality electronics. This type of charity shop typically has higher prices, and a very high standard for the goods it will accept. Other shops provide a range of goods at a variety of prices. Bargain-hunters often make a point of visiting charity shops on a regular basis to look for good deals, and charity shops are also sometimes frequented by people who intend to resell the goods at a profit, such as rare book specialists and clothes dealers.

In some regions, a donation to a charity shop is tax-deductible, with tax authorities accepting the value of the donated goods as a deduction. In order to receive a deduction, donors will have to select a shop run by a charity which is recognized by the government, and a receipt for the goods will also need to be obtained. Some shops skirt the law by providing people with blank receipts which they can fill out on their own, but consumers should be aware that unusually large donations may be scrutinized, so it is better to declare the actual market value of the donated goods, rather than inflate the size of the donation for tax purposes.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Mor — On Dec 11, 2013

I just want to point out that you should be sensible when giving donations to a charity shop. All too often people will just pull up to a shop for charity and they will dump a bunch of bags of clothes or whatever on the curb and drive off.

The items are only going to be useful if they can be resold. Otherwise, you're just dumping your rubbish on a charity and you should be ashamed of yourself. So do your research on what they need and offer it to them rather than dumping it on them.

By MrsPramm — On Dec 11, 2013

@croydon - One of the reasons the selection isn't always great is that charity volunteers get the first pick of everything that goes through the shop so they will often snag the best deals! It's the kind of thing that I would recommend to people who are looking for work, because it can help to fill up that gap in your resume and you will also get some experience and hopefully a reference out of it as well.

I volunteered at a charity shop for a couple of years when I was in high school and it was really satisfying to feel like I was giving back to the community, even if it was only a couple of hours a week. Plus, I'm sure the reference from the manager helped me get my next job.

By croydon — On Dec 10, 2013

Charity shops are the absolute best place to look for cheap books. I've noticed that in the last decade or so people have caught onto the idea of buying books in secondhand bookstores and the stores have increased their prices accordingly. Often they are only a few dollars cheaper than getting the book new.

But charity shopping is great because they almost always have their books at only a couple of dollars each at the most. The selection is often not the best, but if you keep your eyes open you can find some real bargains.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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