Are charity shops the new rock stars of the retail world? Well, not so long ago, that would have sounded like a daft question. Nowadays, however, the charity shop is in vogue, with Oxfam right at the centre of things. So how did the charity shop – and especially Oxfam’s – become so cool?
The recession effect
We all know that a recession affects retail well after it has started dying down. So the long-term impact of the recession has created all kinds of surprising shifts in the way shoppers behave. We think that the move to thriftier shopping via charity shops is linked to the Lidl effect where consumers realised that they could also find great stuff in cheaper stores. Post-recession, not only are we spending less on stuff, but we’re also looking for more value from the stuff that we do buy – and where better to achieve this than in a charity shop? This change has updated the perception of the charity shop, making it an essential part of everyday shopping for many people.
A clever mix
In our view, the rise of the Oxfam charity shop came about thanks to a powerful mix of a well-established and trusted brand and a shift in shopping behaviour. Add to that a drive for brands to be associated with more worthwhile, positively focused endeavours (another result of the recession, we think) and you have a high street powerhouse. You can see this mix at work with Oxfam’s recent TV advertising campaign in which they encourage recent brides to take their old wedding dresses to their local Oxfam shop for the benefit of others. They’re cleverly using their bigger budget as a leading charity and making the most of the popularity of programmes like Say Yes to the Dress to create another stream of clothing donations and income.
Oxfam has been smart and built on the strength of its own brand to make its stores something of a destination. Look at their various in-store gigs featuring such names as Fatboy Slim and Mystery Jets! Hey, Oxfam charity shops are so cool right now that even Sean Ryder has been spotted working in one! And we couldn’t talk about Oxfam’s creativity without mentioning the whole Oxjam music festival initiative.
We recently looked at how high street leader River Island continues to succeed by staying innovative. Well, we think it’s the same for Oxfam. See its latest idea – a temporary online “Shwop Shop” created in partnership with Marks and Spencer, selling celebrity fashion to raise funds. This is a brilliant way to strengthen the perception of the Oxfam brand as youthful and cutting edge and to attract more people into its stores.
Oxfam deserves its hard earned status as one of the leaders of the charity shop landscape. After all, life for charities, as well as retailers in general, hasn’t always been easy in recent years. But Oxfam’s more innovative approach to its charity shops is helping to encourage us all to re-use products and support important causes at the same time. And what could be cooler than that?
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