Oxfam shops

From Volunteering to Shop Manager - My Journey with Oxfam Holywood

Fiona Anderson, Shop Manager at Oxfam Holywood

During the pandemic, thousands of people found themselves furloughed and not working for the first time in their adult lives. It was a tough transition for many as they struggled to fill their days with things to do. However, as the restrictions lifted the majority of people returned to their day jobs – at least those who were lucky enough to still have that option did. But Fiona Anderson from Holywood, County Down, discovered that what she did to fill up her days during lockdown was actually what she wanted to do full time and so she went about pursuing her passion.

Fiona had a successful career in communications but a stint volunteering in her local Oxfam charity changed all that.

"My friends and family call me the recycling queen because I constantly speak to people about recycling and living sustainably as it is really important to me. I was working in communications and last year the pandemic happened and I was furloughed. I didn't know what to do with myself, having worked since I was 14, so I went into my local Oxfam and volunteered. I had volunteered there while I was at school for with my best friend Rachel when we did our Duke Of Edinburgh Award and I decided to go back to help out with my spare time.

“In my previous role as a Digital Marketing Specialist I was working with some of Northern Ireland’s biggest brands creating digital strategy and running their social media accounts so I was keen to apply this to my volunteering role. A lot of charity shops miss out on implementing that strategic communications approach which a lot of other retailers are already doing. So I set up an Instagram page and from there it grew really quickly (all organic growth, whereas I was used to working for clients with healthy marketing budgets!)

"Suddenly we were aware of the huge demand for a social media presence for the shop. Charity shops aren't good at promoting themselves individually and there was a huge gap in the market for posting what we had available to attract people who wouldn't traditionally charity shop. This in partnership with the fact the pandemic happened, a lot of people were really strapped for cash and were looking for a new place to shop. I think we all re-evaluated what was important to us and there was a clear societal shift in attitude towards charity shopping which worked in our favour. We now have a really loyal following from eco-warriors to fashionistas and people who are just there for a bargain. It's been fantastic.”

I absolutely fell in love with the shop and the team, a fantastic bunch of characters of all ages – our oldest volunteer Barbara is 93! There is so much to learn from each of the volunteer’s experiences and expertise. I love people and I loved spending time with the volunteers and getting to know the regular customers.
Fiona, Shop Manager outside Oxfam Holywood

Fiona enjoyed her time volunteering that she made the huge decision when a full-time position came up in the store. She said: "I eventually returned to work but I just felt that my heart was in Oxfam. I was still volunteering at weekends but I was missing the shop and the people. So when a shop manager position became available, I took a leap of faith and applied. I was successful in getting the job and suddenly the shop that I had loved for so many years was actually mine!

"Once we reopened after the Christmas lockdown, Holywood Oxfam had the highest sales in Northern Ireland for the opening day out of all the Oxfam shops. This was due to the quality of the items and how we promoted our reopening across social media - we actually had a queue down the street at opening!”

Something I feel I probably underestimated was just how important a role the charity shop plays in people's lives in the local community, especially in a town like Holywood. People really struggled over lockdown not having that social interaction and I get told so often I'm the only person they have spoken to today. We have customers who are in the shop every day which is lovely to see, we also have volunteers from lots of different backgrounds. I am particularly passionate about encouraging and empowering young people, It is so fulfilling to watch them grow in confidence and build up their experience.
Shop Window and merchandising from Oxfam Holywood

“There is so much creativity involved in this job which I adore. From merchandising and decorating the shop to our unique window displays and handpicking the best clothing and homeware to showcase on social media. You have to be a bit of a jack of all trades as a charity shop manager, no two days are ever the same but I have really enjoyed my experience so far. We recently hosted a Harry Potter themed event which was a sell out, it’s fun to theme our displays to appeal to different audiences - we are really excited for Halloween this year and will have costumes to suit everyone.

Fiona believes this is a really exciting time for charity shops and encourages anyone who is thinking of volunteering or pursuing a career with Oxfam not to think twice about doing it. She said: "I have so many plans for the shop. Everyone is now getting behind the sustainable fashion movement and we are delighted about it as it has never been more important. There is a shift in attitude and it is so lovely to be a part of in a small way. I'm probably not a traditional charity shop manager, I had this promising career in communications but the last year just changed so much for me. It was an eye-opener and it just made me realise what is truly important. I now have such a great work/life balance as the shop opens at 10am and closes at 5pm whereas before I would be working until really late and taking my work home with me. It's all about prioritising what matters and doing what you are passionate about.

As Second Hand September approaches we have lots of exciting things planned including partnering with a personal stylist for a bespoke evening shopping event, a designer sale day and we have also just launched a TikTok account for our shop (@HolywoodOxfam). We will be encouraging all our followers to take the SHS pledge to only buy second hand for the whole month. You can keep up to date with everything we are up to via our Instagram, Facebook or Twitter page through the handle.

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Saying yes to SecondHand? You’re not the only one...

Last year, 33 million people around the world bought second-hand clothes for the very first time –and more than three-quarters of those people plan to increase their spending on pre-loved items in the next five years –pretty incredible right?

The figures, released last month by ThredUp –the world’s largest fashion resale platform –also reveal that the second-hand market is expected to DOUBLE over the next five years.

It emerged that the resale sector grew during the pandemic and is now worth$36 billion. Moreover, the findings in ThredUp’s ninth annual Resale Report highlight that the second-hand market is expected to grow 11 times faster than the retail clothing business over the same period.

The report found that consumers’ values have changed since the pandemic began, driving new demand for second hand. One in three shoppers now care more about wearing sustainable apparel than pre-pandemic, 60 percent don’t want to waste money and 51 percent worry about environmental waste. Just one out of two shoppers reported to care more about getting a bargain.

And the report revealed that the circular economy is going mainstream, with shoppers and retailers eager for governments to incentivise resale.

Almost 60 percent of retail executives say they’d be more likely to test clothing resale if there were financial incentives for doing so, while 44 percent of shoppers think that the government should help promote sustainable fashion.

And nearly 50 percent of the 3,500 shoppers surveyed said they’d be more inclined to buy second-clothes if there was no sales tax or they got a tax credit.

Elsewhere, other research has found that Gen-Z shoppers are concerned about brands’ sustainability credentials, in terms of both social and environmental issues. The findings are based on a survey of more than 2,000 people who buy and sell on vintage clothing marketplace Depop in the US.

Seventy percent of those surveyed said that their decision whether to buy clothes or not depends on fashion companies’ stances on fair wages and safety. Six out of 10 respondents said the same for issues of diversity and inclusion, while another 60 percent mentioned brands’ efforts to reduce their environmental footprint.

People are starting to see just how much pressure throwaway fashion is putting on our planet and people and how unsustainable it is. And people are starting to take action. And you can too!

Set yourself a personal challenge, and join us for Second Hand September as we say yes to pre-loved!

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Sienna Miller is encouraging you to take part in Oxfam’s Second Hand September

Sienna Miller supporting Second Hand September 2021

Millions of items of clothing end up in Irish landfills every year. Throwaway fashion is putting increasing pressure on our planet and its people.
Sienna Miller is encouraging you to take part in Oxfam’s Second Hand September.

If we all make small changes, we can make a difference. - Sienna

When shopping with Fashion Relief or in Oxfam shops, there are gems to be found. The appeal of an original pieces that no one else has, interesting clothes with a twist, it all awaits you!

There are a few questions that every vintage shopper has when trawling through rails of clothes.

Will it fit, will I wear it, and will it last forever?

Oxfam Ireland and Fashion Relief

Shopping vintage and pre-loved can be an amazing and more sustainable approach to fashion, however there are a few things to keep in mind to shop as mindfully as possible.

Know what you need and what suits you.

Being clear about what items are missing from your wardrobe and knowing what looks good on you is key to being successful when shopping for vintage.

2. Size it right.

Sizing and silhouettes have changed over the years, so it is important to try it on or have a tape measure handy.

3. Don’t buy just because it’s a ‘gem’ or a ‘good deal’.

It’s only worth buying if it’s a piece you’ll wear and create memories in. Follow Livia Firth’s 30 Wear Challenge and ask yourself ‘will I wear this 30 times?’, this will force you to pause before buying. If the answer is not 100% yes, then put it back.

4. Know your fabrics.

This one obviously takes time, but if you pay close attention to care labels and garment composition, you will eventually learn to recognise a fabric by touch intuitively. This is a great advantage because it means you’ll be able to get premium items for a lower price. A silk dress will be much cheaper if it's missing a composition label clearly stating that it's pure silk.

And if all else fails – if you are not quite sure and it’s a bargain, go ahead and buy it anyway! After all it’s for a good cause. Have a constantly rotating cast-off bag at home. If you find that you do not wear something, you can always donate it back to the store for someone else to love. According to WRAP, by extending the life of our clothes by 9 months of active use, we can reduce their carbon, water, and waste footprints by 20-30%.

To make your special pieces last, it’s important to care for them properly.

1. Fabrics First

If you want to clean your vintage finds and escape sky-high dry-cleaning bills (not to mention avoiding the harsh chemicals), you should learn how to clean and store them properly. Cotton and synthetics are hardy fabrics and can be machine washed. Silk and satin are usually labelled as dry clean only but can usually be hand-washed in cool water. Sweaters will be good as new if you dry them flat on a towel as opposed to hanging them up (the weight of the water in them will stretch them beyond recognition). Speaking of stretched-out jumpers, never ever hang a jumper up on a hanger, as that’s a sure-fire way to stretch out the shoulders and ruin it.

2. Which wash?

When in doubt, and with vintage garments, it is always best to handwash. When doing your laundry, it’s also important to wash right; with a suitable detergent, technique, and temperature – treating the textiles the way they deserve. Clothes don’t need to be washed after every wear. 20% of the environmental impact of your clothes is generated when you wear and wash them. Air or steam clean them between wears and spot clean when needed, not only will you be helping the environment, but you’ll also help preserve your clothes for longer.

3. Store safe

Good storage is essential to preventing damage. Most damage comes from environmental conditions – sunlight, humidity, and pests. Use natural repellents like lavender pouches and cedarwood balls in your wardrobe and drawers to protect your garments.

4. Repair and Re-wear

Scruffs and scratches are par for the course with wear. Don’t write off damaged goods, you can extend their life by enlisting help in restoration services and repairs. When it comes to leather, apply a nourishing cream to your jackets, bags, and shoes to increase longevity. Enlist the help of an alternations pro who can ensure the durability of your clothes – repairs or restyling to suit your current lifestyle. Consult a tailor for ideas on fixing or upcycling. Or if you’re nifty with a needle, do it yourself.

And remember by shopping and donating with Oxfam, you’ll not only be helping to combat climate change, the money you help to raise will support people facing poverty around the world.

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Give fast fashion the boot this autumn – join us for Second Hand September!

The fashion industry might not be the first sector you think of when it comes to big polluters –but the sector is responsible for 10 percent of global pollution.

According to research, over 92 million tonnes of waste is generated by the industry annually, while a staggering 1.5 trillion litres of water is used to make clothes. On top of that, millions of items of clothing end up in landfills across the country every year.

Since 1975, the global production of textiles has exploded –almost tripling –while the price of clothes has plummeted. Lower prices have seen shoppers buying more clothes than they really need, resulting in the phenomenon known as ‘fast fashion’.

The reality is, throwaway fashion is putting increasing pressure on our planet and people –it’s unsustainable, but there is something you can do to help.

Set yourself a personal challenge, and join us for Second Hand September as we say yes to pre-loved clothes by giving them a new lease of life!

We have 47 Oxfam shops selling high-quality pre-loved clothes, accessories, handbags, shoes and more across the island of Ireland, and our teams of nearly 1,000 staff and volunteers are ready to help you start (or continue) your journey to more sustainable fashion choices.

Ever wondered how shopping second hand in charity shops benefits the environment?

According to our own national Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, it’s estimated that 63,000 tonnes of textiles end up in waste streams each year –to be either sent to landfills or incinerated.But through our network of shops, along with other members of the Irish Charity Shop Association, we collectively divert around 23,000 tonnes of clothing from landfill every year.

Even during the pandemic, with rolling lockdowns which meant shops were only trading for 33 weeks of the year, charity shops in Ireland managed to divert 14,775 tonnes from landfill -that’s the equivalent of the weight of Dublin Bus’s fleet of more than 1,000 vehicles! It also prevented106,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.

In addition,€42 million was raised to support the world’s most vulnerable people with the help of thousands of incredible staff and volunteers. So you see, second-hand items are precious. Every pre-loved garment or item donated to, or bought at Oxfam helps our environment, while raising vital funds to fight inequality and support our global mission to beat poverty. Join us now and embark on your 30-day journey to sustainability.
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