Oxfam UK Promotes Second-Hand Haute Couture

Oxfam has always been the front-runner when it comes to second-hand clothing, books, and music shopping in the UK. All Oxfam shops also have an excellent collection of Fairtrade goods. Oxfam has about 700 shops in the UK and donations of unwanted goods are resold to help support the charity’s work.

Every year, Oxfam has a turnover of  around £60m from resale of its second-hand goods and January is the busiest time for them. Considering that Oxfam shops are staffed by volunteers and run on donated items, this is a tremendous amount of transactions.

The charity has recently launched a campaign to show that second-hand clothes can be chic and contemporary. The goal of the campaign, called ‘haute couture,’ is to dispel any myths about secondhand clothes being old or dowdy. Their Spring 2012 ‘lookbook’ features clothes and accessories from their retail shops and online store. The catalogue is shot with excellent styling, and a very fashionable look. The organization is also going to supply all its retail outlets with a report to keep their stores in touch with high-street trends. 

With this new makeover, Oxfam hopes to attract more customers, especially those in the younger demographic. Patrick Kingsley of The Guardian recently followed the trail of donated clothing of a single donor to the people who will eventually buy them. The donor’s 38 donated items fetched the store at least £214.70 and all items were saved from the landfill. Oxfam does its best to ensure that all donated items are sold. Sometimes, they move around their stock between stores and at other instances, stock  is moved to a Supersaver store where items are sold for massively reduced prices.

Some really expensive items are priced by a more experienced team and are sometimes auctioned for very high prices. Still other items are sent to Oxfam’s Wastesaver, a processing facility for clothing that may not sell, based in Huddersfield. From here, experienced staff sort out these items to send to a different market like its vintage store or even overseas. About two million bags of unsold clothing a year is sorted at Wastesaver, and most of it is reused. Very badly damaged items are mulched to be re-purposed for insulation and other uses. Some others are sent overseas, only if Oxfam is sure that there are no negative effects. Only about 5 percent of items are incinerated and Oxfam is constantly working to bring these numbers down.

With such a tremendous operation, charity shops such as Oxfam deserve encouragement not only through donations but also through purchases. For college students, low-wage earners, and bargain seekers Oxfam can be the ideal place. Oxfam’s vintage collection often has, one-of-a-kind pieces and unique accessories that will spice up any wardrobe. As a buyer, you can always walk away with the dual feel-good factor of a cheap purchase as well as the satisfaction of putting your money to good use.

Image Credit: Top – Oxfam Ireland, Donation Day Poster. Bottom – Oxfam Donation Drop-Off Box, Wikimedia Commons.

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net