Sustainable Shopping: Guide to Stockbridge Charity Stores Edinburgh
The first time we strolled down Stockbridge’s high street, we couldn’t help but notice the abundance of charity shops. There are literally dozens of the things.
And these are no dusty old stores crammed to the rafters with junk either. They’re smart, and sometimes chic, shops, some with polished floorboards and spot lighting and their products often beautifully displayed like any fashion boutique.
Once a working class suburb that evolved into a rather bohemian neighbourhood (I’m told Nico from The Velvet Underground was once a resident and shopped these stores), Stockbridge has always had charity shops, but as the area became more affluent, the stores became increasingly smart to continue to attract local trade.
Now, the area is so renowned for its charity shopping that store managers tell me shoppers make a day of a visit here, doing laps of the street, taking breaks for lunch and coffee along the way.
Barbara Williams, manager of Save the Children’s ‘Mary’s Living and Giving Shop’, which was given a stylish makeover by television celebrity and retail makeover guru Mary Portus, tells me there was a long queue when their shop opened.
“People are coming here because they want to buy unique things, dated things, but they’re customising the items to make them more individual. The quality of stock is a lot better than it used to be and people appreciate that they can get better quality/value at these stores,” Barbara says.
While ‘Mary’s Living and Giving Shop’ might be a model store and is a little ritzier than most, it’s indicative of the new breed. “We’re a community shop,” Barbara tells me. “But we’re not just a shop. We hold local events, art exhibitions, we have a mother’s group, and we’re running jewellery-making classes. We also sell art by local artists and products by young designers.”
A little way down the street, Jamie Morrison, the manager at Oxfam Music, boasts that his shop is the only specialist music charity store in Edinburgh. All of his staff are music enthusiasts and are specialists in different genres of music. Although the shop stocks CDs, DVDs, and musical instruments, the store deals mainly in vinyl, which James says is seeing a resurgence in popularity.
“People are looking for vinyl in the same way they seek out vintage clothes,” James says. “They love the ceremony of putting a needle on a record player. We put a lot of effort into grading and sorting, and we sell lots of punk, reggae, classical, and jazz. We have regular customers, who come in every week, some as young as 12, and as old as 90.”
A few doors down I discover Shelter Bookstore, which manager Jack Wall is also very proud of. He reckons it’s Scotland’s, if not Edinburgh’s, best second-hand bookstore.
Like ‘Mary’s Living and Giving Shop’, the store is more than just a shop. Jack holds regular book events, especially during the festivals. He also has rare stock that’s hard to find elsewhere, such as a first edition Vanity Fair from 1848, selling for £80. I buy a brand new travel book for as little as £3!
You can pick up a copy of The Edinburgh Charity Shop and Reuse Map produced by Changeworks, from any of Stockbridge’s charity shops. This handy map lists all the shops in Stockbridge and throughout Edinburgh and plots them on a map.