It is right at the end of Secondhand September and that makes it time to celebrate National Op Shop Week. And we all love a good celebration at this time of the year.
It is almost 140 years since the humble opportunity shop, usually referred to as an ‘op shop’ first came into existence in Australia. Originally started in 1880 by the Salvation Army, these recycling depots were set up to assist men who needed assistance when they were released from prison.
Collecting, sorting and baling of waste paper was the first material to be dealt with by the Salvos. However it wasn’t long before sales of clothing and textiles, donated by those who no longer required them, were sold to those less fortunate. Over time many other household items were also included in their offerings.
Today, some op shops provide significant funds for the charities that operate them. While they have often started out small with the best intentions to help people in need or make the world a better place – they have wound up turning a significant profit through embracing social enterprise.
In Australia, there are now many registered charities that operate op-shops, including groups such as Mission Australia, St.Vincent de Paul, Epilepsy Australia, Vision Australia, Australian Red Cross and the RSPCA, operating within the social enterprise realm.
With fast fashion ensuring that there is high turnover of items in consumer’s wardrobes, the result is that people with the means to purchase the latest trends often will do so, leaving unwanted items in charity bins around the country.
This means that people can furnish their homes or clothe their families for a relatively small amount of money, providing the basic creature comforts that every Australian should be afforded at the smallest of price tags, all while supporting a community organisation through the positive power of social enterprise.
Op shops have also thrived with the rise of many sub-cultures within Australian society such as hipsters, punk and hippies, who are often considered ‘reactive sub-cultures’ pushing against society trends, fashions or norms.
Despite many changes in the way we purchase with online sales making it easier to purchase with a ‘click’, the future of op shops is not only secure but is likely to thrive in the years to come. The increasingly disposable nature of society and the desire for people to be ‘on trend’ will keep op shop shelves stocked for many years to come.
Our diverse culture, keen eye for a bargain and need to be ‘individual’ works in favour this iconic community institution as shoppers continue to flock to opportunity shops across the country in search of a treasure. The humble Aussie op shop is a thriving social enterprise, today as it was over one hundred years ago.
So let’s celebrate the humble Op Shop and keep on Op Shopping.