Sustainable fashion | Charity Supermarket | Brent Cross

Is Brent Cross the start of a step change for charity shops?

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You may have seen in recent news that the UK’s first multi-charity store has opened to shoppers. The momentous move coincides with a strong upturn in charity shop performance, with sales being 22% higher than pre-pandemic levels, due to the cost-of-living crisis.1


With the surge in second-hand fashion gaining popularity across all ages, the future looks bright for charity shops and the resulting lesser impact on our environment.


Charity Supermarket, at Brent Cross Shopping Centre in North London, is the first of its kind, with ten UK charities all selling in one space. The pop-up store, which is staffed by volunteers, opened at the beginning of February 2023 for one month. We are delighted that our clients All Aboard, Shelter UK and Havens Hospices are all part of the groundbreaking Brent Cross store.


Charity shops have had the stigma, for years, that they are old-fashioned and can even be disregarded by some as a place for musty, unwanted clothes. But the stereotype is fast dissipating due to the media’s reinforcement of how harmful it is for the environment to consistently buy new clothes. There’s been a huge surge in people wanting to buy pre-loved clothes and to gain access to brands at a fair price and upcycle.


We feel that Brent Cross is the start of something special for our sector, with a number of other key factors taking a role.


Cost-of living crisis

As the UK’s cost-of-living crisis has taken its toll, intensifying in the past few months, people from all walks of life are making cutbacks. In 2022, prices at high-street shops inflated, which meant people pulled back on their spending.2 This drove them to visit charity shops instead, resulting in a ‘Christmas boom’ at the back end of last year. Recent studies have shown that around two thirds of UK adults say they are now more likely to regularly buy goods from charity shops than compared to a year ago.3 For the large majority, disposable income has gone, so the charity sector can now provide quality products to local people at a price they can afford.


Younger demographic

Social media has a huge influence on younger people, and, in recent years, preloved items have gained more respect than ever. Younger age groups have been made aware of how inexpensive and eco-friendly items are, and that you can also purchase luxury items for second-hand and upcycle pieces at lower prices. Not only that, but charity shops are often in local towns, so they may be easier to get to without means of a car or public transport.


It is believed that Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012), unlike previous generations, has shown a large amount of love and respect for art and individuality.4 Charity shops are a great way to find individual pieces to express your unique fashion style. Three-quarters of Generation Z also say that sustainability is more important to them than brand names, and 75% of Millennials are eco-conscious to the point of changing their buying habits to favour environmentally-friendly products.5


TV programme Love Island is famously popular with younger audiences, and it made a huge statement in its 2022 show: that they would be ditching fast-fashion brands and, instead, partnering up with eBay.


Digital shift

Not only are we seeing a huge uptake in high-street charity shops, but people are also moving to buy from charity shops and preloved clothing companies online, as it’s so easy and at their fingertips. eBay and Facebook Marketplace were the first, prominent go-to places for pre-loved items. However, more businesses are gaining popularity such as Depop, Vinted, ASOS marketplace, TikTok shop, Preloved and Etsy – all of which are further helping the trend to move forward. 


The digital shift was largely seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and has shown new creative opportunities for charities to tap into this new market. The likes of Depop have had over 30 million people signing up, with 3.3 million active buyers and 1.8 million active sellers.6 Charity shops are great for people who are particular about what they want, and it also makes them feel better as they are benefiting the community.



Charity shops are an ethical and sustainable alternative to fast fashion and throwaway culture, providing a direct and positive benefit for people across the UK. 360,000 tonnes of the textiles thrown away in this country, each year, are clothes; and the average item of clothing is only worn ten times before being thrown away.7 By boosting reuse and recycling, charity retail helps to reduce waste that would otherwise end up in landfill. Charity shops can also reuse or recycle more than 90% of donated clothing, over 90% of donated books and 85% of donated electrical goods.8


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