Op shop sales ‘through the roof’ as customers flood in after coronavirus restrictions ease

Op shops have emerged as an unlikely winner amid the coronavirus pandemic, with stores reporting sales at far higher rates than before the virus forced many retail outlets to shut down.

Charity organisation St Vincent de Paul Society in WA said it was now seeing a major spike in demand after business came to a standstill when COVID-19 hit and forced doors to close.

“It’s been a really testing time for us. We’re significantly reliant on the revenue and profit that’s made through our shops to fund our services,” St Vincent’s WA general manager Carl Prowse said.

“Obviously COVID, it came from left field, no one saw it coming and we actually dropped over $2.4 million in revenue over a two-month period.

“For us that’s significant when we’re trying to help more and more people at a time when they’re in need.”

A head and shoulders shot of a smiling middle aged man standing in a warehouse with a checked shirt on.
St Vincent de Paul Society WA manager Carl Prowse says the increased sales are much needed.(ABC News: Herlyn Kaur)

Mr Prowse said average sales at their stores had jumped by 40 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“Plus we’ve seen a lot of new people coming into the store that we haven’t seen before, which is fantastic.”

Big increase in donations

The Australian Red Cross’s op shop store manager in Mount Hawthorn, Jo Buzuk, said the number of clothing donations had grown, helping to boost stocks.

Ms Buzak smiles in front of her store.
Mt Hawthorn Red Cross store manager Jo Buzuk said the community had been very supportive.(ABC News: Herlyn Kaur)

“We’ve just seen a big increase in donations, obviously people were cleaning out while they were stuck at home which is fantastic, which obviously leads to having a very full shop,” she said.

“There’s been a lot more interest coming through, obviously with the donations as well but people are shopping [and] we’ve got lots of winter items.

“We’ve had lots of regulars come through and they’re amazed like, ‘Oh we drove past and you’re open again,’ so they were really positive. It’s been great feedback from the community.”

Australian Red Cross head of retail Richard Wood said its first two WA stores reopened on May 19 and the remainder followed at the start of June, and since then, sales had risen.

“We’re pleased to say we’ve been receiving strong support locally and our sales are up by about 35 per cent on last year in WA,” he said.

“The good results in WA are due to a range of reasons including an enthusiasm among people to get out and shop, our regulars knowing that Red Cross shops are a cool place to get value for money while supporting a good cause, and new faces who might be finding it harder to make ends meet.”

Not just about the bargains

With many West Australians spending more time out of the house, choosing to shop at charity stores seems to be more than just about being thrifty.

Victoria smiles in front of a rack of clothes.
Victoria Turner says op shops offer a different retail experience as well as “unique finds”.(ABC News: Herlyn Kaur)

“[It] feels great, feels really nice to find lots of cute little things, get back into it. It’s a really nice community around it as well,” shopper Victoria Turner said.

Fellow shoppers Synaed Roche and Lauren Elliott said it was also about reducing their environmental footprint.

Synaed and Lauren stand in front of a rack of clothes.
Synaed Roche and Lauren Elliott say there’s more to op shopping than cheap prices.(ABC News: Herlyn Kaur)

“I don’t like to buy lots of fast fashion, the things fall apart really quick, and I really like buying clothes that are more sustainable,” Ms Roche said.

“I think you can find like a wider variety of sizes as well, there’s always something that’s really large you can have for a bigger body type or very small. It’s just so diverse and really fun,” Ms Elliott said.

“I really do think it’s a lovely sense of community, especially with the Australian Red Cross because you’re almost directly helping.”

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