Anyone who knows me well, will tell you that I LOVE a bargain. I like to think of myself as a bit of a bargain hunting queen, whether that’s rummaging for goodies at a car boot sale or waiting out for the best deals online.
One of my favourite ways to make my money stretch far, is to spend it in a charity shop. I think I’ve been to nearly every charity shop between Southampton and Bridport, and as someone who hates the idea of waste, I get a real kick out of finding an item of clothing or something for the home that I can give new lease life to, some of these old things come with history and a story.
I was recently invited along to an event at Julia’s House with the Bournemouth Bloggers network, and it might seem lame to some, but I considered this to be one of the most exciting events, as I’m truly passionate about this stuff.
Julia’s House are a charity based in the South, who provide practical and emotional support for families caring for a child with a life limiting or life threatening condition, providing regular support in their own homes, in the community or at their hospices. The charity was set up by dedicated pediatric nurse Julia Perks, Julia dreamed of setting up this support network, however she sadly passed away from cancer before seeing her dream become a reality. Close friend Mike Wise, along with supporters took on Julia’s dream and created this wonderful charity.
A hospice was originally set up in Poole, with a second hospice opening in Devizes in 2013, but this charity is still community led, with only 5% of Julia’s House being government funded. Charities like these rely on their fundraisers, donations, patrons, sponsors and charity shops.
The event was held at the newly expanded and renovated store in Creekmoor, Poole. Now I wasn’t prepared for quite how big this store was going to be, it’s enormous, hands down the biggest charity shop I’ve ever seen. In fact it is the largest charity shop in the south, it’s more like a department store. Store manager Dave kindly gave us a tour around the store.
Many of the bloggers refereed to the store as the charity shop version of Ikea, because everything was set up like a home, there is a living room section, dining room, bedroom and even a kitchen area, selling all different types of items relevant to that room.
Like most charity shops there was a women’s section, however, in this store the women’s wear was extensive, one wall was filled with shoes, there are rows and rows of tops, blouses, and even stand just for scarves. As well a designer rail full of ‘high end’ brands. The clothes are well looked after, they are steamed and tagged with the correct sizes before going out onto the shop floor, the clothes smell fresh and clean unlike some charity shops that can often have a musky scent.
It was great to see a vast range of menswear, usually menswear is tucked into a tiny corner of a charity shops, with a handful of shirts and t-shirts, but here there were rows of jeans, jumpers, even suits. Along with gift sets, shoes, accessories and the biggest vinyl collection I’ve ever seen in a charity shop.
At the back of the store there was a large kids section, with everything from games and clothes, toys and teddies, along with a number of push chairs and baby clothes. With such a wide selection of kids items, folks could easily do their Christmas shopping here.
Tucked away in a quiet corner, is the library room, full of wooden furniture and warming colours where the walls are covered in books. This library is been decorated and created so beautifully, it’s really peaceful and calming, as soon as you set in you almost forget you’re in a store. Shoppers are encouraged to have a seat on the gorgeous leather sofa and take a moment to lose themselves in a book.
We were informed by staff that over the past few years book sales have been in decline, with people using e-books and kindles more, however in recent months hard books have, quite literally, been flying off the selves.
The crowning jewel of the store, in my opinion, is the bridal room. I was completely in awe over this gorgeous section, as you enter the room, the first thing you see is the back wall, which is completely full of beautiful wedding dresses, a table in the center is covered in bridal shoes, a cupboard to the side is stocked with all kinds of accessories from jewelry, hair pieces, tiaras and more. There is also good selection of bridesmaid, flower girl and page boy outfits, along with dresses that would be suitable for prom.
When most people think of buying a wedding dress from a charity shop, they most likely think of some frumpy, ancient frock with zero figure. These dresses however, are absolutely lovely, most of which are pre-loved dresses, donated by brides who would have spent a lot of money on the dress worn for just one day. Some of these dresses are actually ‘brand new’, with bridal stores and boutiques donating out of season dresses, you could pick yourself up an absolute bargain, second hand that’s never actually been worn.
The wedding dresses vary in price, based on the style and brand, but they are prices typically no more than £300, which is half the price I paid for my straight off the rack bargain dress.
What I love most about this bridal section, is that the staff give the same treatment to you and your family, as you would receive in a normal bridal store. The bridal room is by appointment only, so you won’t have to be fighting other brides to look at dresses, you can have a one to one consultation with staff, your family and bridal party are welcome to come with you, with amble space for them to sit and wait for you to try on dress, in the large separate changing room.
If you can’t tell already, I was pretty damn impressed with this wedding room, as a bride to be it was so exciting to look through all of these stunning dresses and accessories, I even picked up something for myself for the big day, as my something old.
If I wasn’t already in love with this store enough, store manager Dave completely sold it to me when discussing the process they went through when renovating, trying to do it in an environmentally sustainable way. Dave and the team practically did of the renovation and decoration works themselves, using old items in the store such as a number of wooden doors which have become a feature wall in the library room, an old wooden ladder that was found dumped on the side of the road has been up-cycled into shelving and a local garden center donated some old units and display cabinets.
Using wood from a local hardware store, a large Doctor Who themed telephone box has been built and placed right in the center of the kids area as a fun changing room for the kids, which looks brilliant.
This store is hands down the best charity shop I’ve ever visited. I’m so pleased I attended this event, it was really great to find out more of the ins and outs of the store, the story of the charity and meet the wonderful members of staff.
I picked myself up a gorgeous jumper dress, perfect for Autumn, as well as my secret wedding item, and I’ve already planned to visit again soon. I’ll be popping in ahead of Christmas to pick up some bargain presents and continue my journey of trying to live sustainability and environmentally friendly, whilst saving my pennies with second hand items.
So next time you’re having a sort out a home, a declutter or just needing to clear some space at home or work, remember, don’t throw those belongings away, donate them to your local charity shop, help support your community and by doing so, you’ll be reducing the amount of waste going to landfills.
A big thank you to the staff at Julia’s House for the invite, if you would like to find out more about the work that they do, click the link here.