Whether you are looking for items for Restyle 2014, an upcoming costume party or a cheap addition to your regular wardrobe there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of finding that perfect gem and at a lower than low price.
1. Visit the Op Shop districts
Where is the nearest Op Shop? Check my list of Perth Metro Op Shops. It should be up to date and I’ll continue revising it as I try to get around to as many of them as possible over the coming weeks.
As great as it feels to find that hidden gem in a little Op Shop down the road, statistically you have a better chance of success by visiting as many shops as possible. Perth has a couple of ‘districts’ with several Op shops close together. My favourites include:
- High Street, Fremantle: Four shops in this area with a couple of others within walking distance. My first stop when I want to check out lots of items in one go and the source of many of my Uni era theme-party costumes.
- 199 Abernethy Rd, Belmont: Four really big shops on one block. I first came across grouping a few years ago while driving around lost. While I don’t go by there much, a few of my best gets are from out here.
- Albany Hwy, East Victoria Park: Only three smaller shops now that Good Sammys are gone, but there are Op Shops spread along Albany Hwy from Vic Park to Gosnells (plus some not far off the highway in Kelmscott and Armadale). If you are travelling that route, why not make a couple of stops along your way?
- Scarborough Beach Rd, Scarborough: Three small shops next to each other in Scarborough but again, if you are travelling the length, you’ll find other Op shops on side streets in Osborne Park and Mt Hawthorn as well.
- Davey St/Pinjarra Rd, Mandurah: I haven’t been here yet, but there are a collection of small, local charity groups that have Op Shops in this zone and I’ve read some good things about them. Check ‘em out if you’re in Man-dizzle Town
2. Maintain your focus
It is easy to get distracted in the big shops as there are so many possibilities for what you could do with the items on offer. While browsing is fine, I find I have better success if I go in looking for a couple of things in particular, particularly if I’m after costumes or items for the restyle challenge.
Staying focused on a couple of things means you’re less likely to miss something really good that is exactly what you are after. And you can still have a general browse once you’re done!
3. Check the bargain racks
A lot of Op Shops have bargain racks/bins selling gear for even less than the regular low prices. While you probably won’t find much high quality and fashionable stuff here, it is a great way to pick up some cheap items for costumes or, if you are creative and handy with sewing equipment, a bargain piece that you can convert to suit your needs. If, like me, you feel a little guilty holding out for sale items at a shop that raises money for charity, then you can justify it by telling yourself that you are helping to clear out old stock. By taking the difficult to sell stuff, you are making more room for new items and allowing the shops to process more donations.
Salvos stores have half price on items with a particular colour tag e.g. this week was purple tags. The sale colour changes weekly between yellow, blue, purple and orange tags. Salvos also have a $2 rack on Mondays while most Good Sammy’s stores have a $1 rack all the time. I’ve even come across a few Op Shops, like Southcare in Manning, that have a box for stuff being given away for free! When it comes to Op Shops, there is no shame in a bit of rummaging in the cheap sections.
4. Look out for big sales and clearance days
As well as the regular bargain racks, a lot of stores hold special sales, discounts and clearance days. Good Sammy’s have 50% off sales that last over one weekend, usually in the middle of the month (there is one on right now!). Like their Facebook page for updates.
Salvos have regular discount days where certain people get 20% off (not on other offers or new stock). Health Care card holders get discounts on Tuesdays and on Wednesdays it is the turn of students.
The Spine & Limb Foundation has a couple of big garage sales each year discounting everything in their Op Shop (plus some big book sales at their Book Bazaar next door). The next one is next Sunday morning, 27th of July. See their Facebook or website for updates on when the next sale will be.
Keep an eye out when visiting other Op shops to see if they have any specials going or upcoming events. Today I found Vinnie’s in Osborne Park offering 2 for $5 on men’s clothes and the day before I saw a sign for an Op Shop garage sale tomorrow at St Martin’s house in Kensington. These will probably be finished by the time you read this, but the point is that these things happen regularly, so keep an eye out in store, in community newspapers and on local noticeboards.
5. Time your return visits
It is tempting to visit the same Op Shop frequently in order to catch any gems that come through their doors. However it takes time for Op Shop stock to be sold and get replenished and I don’t like to look at the same stuff over and over again. I also feel it takes some of the magic away from that feeling you get when you find something great by accident. It feels like it was just meant to be, and you can’t force that shit.
I try to wait at least a month or two between visits if I’m just going for a general browse. Of course, if you need something specific just drop in anytime (and don’t forget to have a cheeky browse while you’re there.
So those are my not-so-secret secrets. I’m no expert in fashion or bargain-hunting but these are the things that I do and I’m pretty happy with the results. Of course, it can’t be done without the wonderful people who help these Op Shops. I’m talking about the volunteers who work there and the people who donate stuff to sell. So I’d like to finish with one last tip:
Bonus Tip: Give something back
Once you’ve filled up your wardrobe (and the rest of your house) with fresh Op Shop purchases, clean out some of your old gear and donate it back. What better way to ensure that your Op Shop has stuff that you like than to give it stuff that was yours? As always, make sure it is clean and still in good knick to save charities money on washing or disposing of rubbish ‘donations’.
If you have the time, many Op Shops need volunteer staff as well. Put all that fashion knowledge of yours to good use and help bring some new ideas to your local store (and get advance knowledge of the best stuff coming through the doors at the same time).