There is nothing new about charities running shops. They may be more popular now than ever before (with over 11,000 in the UK) and they may have become a common sight on British high streets with waves of expansion in the 1960s and 1980s, but they have a much longer history.
They also have a much more varied history than we might imagine, especially given the heated debates that keep rehashing the same arguments about whether or not charity shops are deviating from their established and accepted function of selling donated second-hand goods in volunteer-run stores as a means of fundraising. British charities have been running different kinds of shops since the nineteenth and occasionally the eighteenth centuries.
I have been researching this history, primarily using the archives of charities including the British Red Cross, Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s), the Salvation Army, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children and the Wolverhampton Society for the Blind.
Alongside writing up this research for a series of academic publications, Dr Georgina Brewis and I have been organising a series of scholarly and public engagement events to share the findings and insights of this research with wider audiences.
Blog posts and news items
Melita Day-Lewis, ‘A Kindness economy’
Feature article in The Salvationist, 23 January 2021, pp. 12-13
Shopping for a Cause: What are your memories of charity shopping?
Blog post for the Social History Society, 9 November 2020 – feel free to leave a reply sharing your memories!
History of the charity shop to be explored in special online event
University of Wolverhampton, 11 November 2020
What can we learn from the history of charity and charity shops?
Blog post for the British Academy, 16 November 2020
From immersive exhibit to virtual tour: using archive images to tell the history of charity shops
Charity and Voluntary Sector Archives website, 16 November 2020
Event explores the hidden histories of charity shops
UCL Institute of Education, 18 November 2020
A history of charity shops
Blog post for the Charity Retail Consultancy website, 20 November 2020
Archive Case Study: Blind Veterans UK
Charity and Voluntary Sector Archives website, 19 February 2021