Home » More Australians are turning to op shops, but it’s not just the cost of living driving the trend

More Australians are turning to op shops, but it’s not just the cost of living driving the trend

Amid cost of living pressures and changing attitudes towards used goods, more Australians are turning to op shops and other second-hand clothing suppliers, according to new data from one of Australia’s largest  operators.

In New South Wales, St Vincent De Paul sales were up by more than 50 per cent in the last financial year and there was 56 per cent increase in customers.

Albury Vinnies volunteer Robbie Brown said he had noticed the change in the eight years of his involvement with the store.

“It gets pretty hectic. Sometimes you could have half a dozen people lining up waiting to be served,” he said.

“I have seen an increase. Five years ago there wasn’t as many people coming in.

“People can’t afford going out buying brand new stuff, and they’re struggling with the grocery prices and the rent prices.

“I’ve also noticed a lot more people coming in with welfare vouchers to get assistance.”

South NSW Vinnies regional manager Miranda Seaegg said attitudes had changed towards op shops.

“It’s been a gradual increase that we’ve been able to respond to,” she said.

“I think people are still having that shopping experience but in a more affordable and more sustainable way, and we’ve seen over the past few years a younger demographic and a more [sustainability] conscious customer.”

There was a 52 per cent increase in funds raised at Vinnies op shops in NSW between the 2022 and 2023 financial years.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Jason Katsaras)

‘Busier than ever’

In Victoria, some op shops and clothing charities report being “busier than ever”.

More than one million additional people visited Victorian Vinnies in the last financial year, compared to the year prior.

The total of 4,041,654 customers represented a 34.7 per cent increase.

Vinnies is one of many charities that uses profits from volunteer-run stores to fund programs and services for the disadvantaged, including homelessness services, emergency assistance, and aged care.

A dark-haired, bespectacled man sits in a TV studio.

Omer Soker says tough times are driving more people to seek second hand goods.(Supplied: Charitable Recycling Australia)

Charitable Recycling Australia chief executive Omer Soker said op shops throughout the country were able to use profits from their stores to fund $961 million worth of programs and services each year.

“Op shops also divert over a million tonnes away from landfill and save around 880,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year,” he said.

“Today many Australians have found themselves with less money in their wallets and this is what’s driving an added focus on the importance of op shops.”

Changing attitudes

A smiling young woman with dark hair stands in a second-hand clothing store.

Krista Monsul says shopping for second hand does not carry the stigma she remembers from her childhood.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Jason Katsaras)

Krista Monsul, 22, said a change in the way younger people perceived op shopping and the thrill of finding unique items was also driving the boom.

“I believe people come to op shops more often than they used to because of prices, but also because it’s more accepted to shop at op shops now,” she said.

“It’s socially more accepted because I remember, growing up, if you shopped at the op shop you weren’t as cool as the other kids that went to the normal stores. But now people do it for fun and just to get a good bargain.

“I’m looking for a pair of shoes at the moment that could cost me $150 in a store, but I could find them for like five bucks, which is cool.”

Clothing racks in a modestly-appointed but large shop.

A number of providers are reporting an increasing number of younger people in op shops.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Jason Katsaras)

Lifeline Albury Wodonga chief executive Stacy Read said she had noticed shops were full more often and that the combination of trends and costs of living had contributed to the change.

“I think cost of living is absolutely a factor, but I don’t think it’s the whole piece of the puzzle,” she said.