Since the Covid-19 pandemic, retail sales in charity shops have grown by 22%, with some stores doubling sales. But most interestingly, there is a growing advancement in the younger generation buying from thrift stores. So, where has this sudden shift in purchasing expensive brands to searching through charity shops come from?

It’s inevitable that with a pandemic, containing people in their homes for months at a time, that social change will occur. In this case there was a wave of fashion trends, being heightened from platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. Many creators influenced people with their clothing choices, including Emma Chamberlain and Olivia Neill, and once such noteworthy fashion youtubers changed their style, their subscribers followed. A more vintage aspect was worked into their outfits: cargo pants, leather jackets and low rise jeans. These, along with many more trending pieces soared in popularity and the best place to find these pieces are charity shops, in my opinion. This is because, the older generation who owned these clothes soon grew out of them and turned to the most ethical, easiest route: donating to charity shops. In my personal experience, going to the men’s section of thrift stores was a goldmine for oversized jumpers, baggy jeans and graphic tees. I’ve noticed brands such as Urban Outfitters mimic the looks often found in charity shops, defining how popular these pieces really are. Rather than buying heavily patterned clothes that could be hard to style, charity shops can offer a vast range of statement pieces. This means there’s less desire to throw them out and buy more clothes according to fashion trends and brands as some pieces never die out.

Another reason that there is a growing shift towards buying clothes from charity shops, opposed to the latest brands, is for more ethical reasons. Reusing clothes is majorly sustainable in comparison to throw-away culture and fast fashion. Many workers of the latter are severely taken advantage of, since they are underpaid, in poor conditions and it often involves children working tirelessly. By purchasing from charity shops instead, there is less revenue supporting these larger brands that use these unprincipled methods. Alternatively, by donating clothes rather than just buying them from charity shops, you’d be ethically disposing, rather than just increasing the landfill, which is bad for the environment. Since culture is changing, there’s more of a social push to considering victims of fast fashion and looking after the planet. This all links to a greater push in buying secondhand clothes, since it’s an easy way to tackle this issue.

Finally, a more sorrowful reason as to why people are buying from charity shops is the cost of living crisis, unavoidable to the majority of working class families. Since every aspect of life is increasing in price, buying branded clothes just isn’t sustainable anymore. Women’s clothes have increased in price by 37% over the last 5 years and men’s have increased by 25%. Although these price rises don’t seem too significant, if you look at the perspective of larger families trying to provide clothes for constantly growing children, whilst still wanting them to express themselves through fashion, it’s going to create a prominent financial problem. Charity shops can provide the clothes that someone doesn’t wear anymore, but could be a new favourite piece for another person, whilst still being affordable enough. It’s an easy way to save money during such an impossible economic time.