By buying from charity shops instead of conventional ones, you can simultaneously support a good cause, save money, and be sustainable by reusing products and not creating more demand for extra production which the environment will thank you for! ?
Edinburgh is a wonderful place for charity shopping, but if you don’t really know where to go, here is a short overview of the main areas and my personal recommendations:
NEWINGTON is by far the most convenient area for students. There’s a row of charity shops nicely lined up on Nicolson Street and you can just wander from one shop to the next if you have a break between lectures. Within about 700 metres of each other, you’ve got PDSA, British Heart Foundation, Barnado’s (a bit fancier), Save the Children, Oxfam Books, a regular Oxfam, Cancer Research and Shelter. I’m not gonna go into too much detail with these, because they’re all quite similar, but I’d say that Cancer Research probably have the greatest variety of clothes, Shelter is best if you’re more into an alternative style and the lovely Oxfam Books shop is definitely worth a visit as well, especially for the cheap and outlandish postcards.
STOCKBRIDGE is, personally, my favourite area for charity shopping in Edinburgh. The shops here generally offer quality products for decent prices and, similar to Newington, almost all of them are located on the same road.
Another reason I really like to visit Stockbridge are the many specialist shops: Oxfam Music is amazing for records, Shelter Books and Oxfam Books both offer a large collection of books, maps, prints, postcards, plays, sheet music and antiques, and the Bethany Shop might not be your number one choice if you’re looking for clothes, it’s super good for household applicances, kitchenware, electrics and furniture (and if you don’t find what you’re looking for here, check out the bigger Bethany shop near Summerhall).
On the main road (Raeburn Place) the first shop is Hospices of Hope. It’s quite small, but worth a visit, and the volunteers are super friendly.
Follow the road and you’ll see the bright green Barnado’s: I personally have a very complicated relationship with this specific shop because some of their stuff is really nice, and I love their window display, but it’s just. SO overpriced for a charity shop. That being said, I got one of my favourite dresses from there and still haven’t regretted the purchase despite the unreasonable price, so, y’know. Use your judgement.
Cancer Research is next and there’s not a lot I can tell you about this one to be honest: it’s a pretty standard, all around decent charity shop, nicely organised, decent prices and all, though a bit smaller than most other Cancer research shops.
Mary’s Living and Giving Shop for Save the Children. I remember reading something about them that made me skip this shop on my charity trip tours, but it might’ve been something trivial or that it was a tad expensive. In any case, check it out if you want to.
If you’re ever thinking about getting married but don’t want to bankrupt yourself shopping for a wedding dress, the British Red Cross charity shop in Stockbridge is the place to go: they have a (pretty sizable!) collection of second-hand wedding dresses! But even if you’re not thinking about tying the knot, you can find some lovely prom dresses and normal clothing in this shop.
Next stop, Shelter. This shop is always crowded, partly because there’s little room to walk and partly because it’s just really popular. And for good reason: they have great stuff. It’s not well-organised, but it’s great. Women’s clothes, men’s clothes, records, random electrical stuff, paintings, ties, hats and trinkets, a backroom (which I only discovered this year) with homeware & everything else people bring to charity shops…you get the gist. Plus I think the classic music they play is pretty epic.
You cross the road and turn back and roughly opposite the Red Cross shop you’ll find the British Heart Foundation. This is a spacious charity shop, with relatively big sections for shoes, book, movies, homeware and (a rarity) kids clothes + all the standard stuff you’d expect.
The Stockbridge tour concludes with the Edinburgh Cat and Dog Home – it’s quite small, but cute, and the volunteers I’ve talked to have been really nice.
Last but not least, MORNINGSIDE is a more affluent part of Edinburgh and their charity shops reflect that – both in the quality of clothing and the prices you pay – but if you are willing to pay a little extra for more upmarket brands, it’s worth going. Again, they’re all located on the same road.
First off you’ve got Cancer Research: their shop is nicely organised by colour and size (with an extra section for wild floral prints), and they offer good shoes, books, and a sizable section on homeware and co. as well.
The Bethany shop is, again, not famed for its clothes (though you can find some good jackets and mantles in this one), but the Morningside shop is really good for actual furniture (drawers, bedside tables and such). You can also find homeware, books and old magazines here.
Next is the British Red Cross which is so white and spacious it looks more like a regular than a charity shop. The clothes are perfectly organised by colour but generally aimed at richer and older women.
According to the notes I took when I surveyed these shops (yeah, time and effort has gone into this blog post), Capability Scotland has an extra section for summer clothes (some pieces were really cute!) and fancy tea sets. Fancy tea sets are exemplary of Morningside charity shops in general, really.
Furthest away are the two Oxfams (one for books, one for clothes), but in my humble opinion, they’re totally worth walking the few extra steps. The clothing shop has great dresses and shoes, and there’s even extra boxes for sunglasses, bras, swimwear! The sizes are bit disorganised, but it’s probably still my favourite charity shop in Morningside.
Then you walk all the way back again until you get to Shelter. I haven’t talked much about men’s sections because I usually don’t pay much attention to them, but this charity shop has a great one. Their dresses are lovely, too and if you’re specifically looking for high quality wooly sweaters, this is the place to go!
And that concludes my guide! Of course, there are many more charity shops, but I don’t have the time to cover them all. Luckily, the organisation Changeworks has compiled a list of all charity shops in Edinburgh for your convenience where you can find out their contact details and check what kind of products they offer: http://changeworks.proggable.com/?page=list