Is it okay to buy items from a charity shop to resell for a profit?

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Debate: buying from charity shops to sell on

The reselling community in the UK is growing by the day, with people purchasing items from all sorts of places to resell on eBay (or elsewhere) at a profit. Resellers can purchase items from car boot sales, charity shops, eBay itself, high street stores and many other places. But is it okay to buy items from charity shops to resell for a profit?

Is it okay to buy items from a charity shop to resell


It is okay to buy items from charity shops to resell

For those who think it is okay to buy items from charity shops to resell for a profit, they believe that they are supporting the charity. Resellers can spend thousands of pounds in charity shops throughout the year.  The charity shops usually get the items donated for free, so when they make a sale they are getting some much needed cash towards their cause. It also helps to get stock rotating and out of the door, instead of leaving the charity to dispose of those items – usually as a cost to the charity.

Charity shop staff are also often trained on how to price items. They know what to look out for, and having seen behind the scenes in a charity shop, there are informational posters everywhere. Items thought to be more valuable kept aside to explore getting more money for them after weighing up the time it will take against the amount they will receive.

Plus there is the argument that once you have paid the asking price, the item is yours to do with whatever you please.

You might like these eBay tips from Clare. 

It is not okay to buy items from charity shops to resell

On the other side of the fence, you have people who don't think that it is okay to buy items from a charity shop in order to profit.

The main argument is about whether it is moral. If a charity shop has been donated an item with value, if they don't know the value then they are missing out. Is it fair for someone else to profit from spotting this type of bargain, or should the charity be made aware of how valuable the item is?

Thoughts from others

Opinion is very divided on this topic, so I wanted to get some ideas from both people who are reselling and someone who works in a charity shop.

Let's start with Alice from Alice's Wonder Emporium, who works at a charity shop:

Customers buy clothing and sell it on, it happens and there's nothing we can do about it. At the end of the day the money is still going to the charity, what the customer does after that is their choice. However customers who create elaborate stories about why they are buying 57 handbags in a week or bulk buy clothing in a multitude of sizes we know you're selling them on, just be honest. We will probably respect you more for it than you coming in and reeling off a story we all know is fake. 

I had a customer recently who came in and explained he was starting to sell clothes in eBay but didn't know what were good brands, and we were happy to help him hunt out some nice pieces. A bit of honesty goes a long way! 

Chiino from Probably Busy says:

A bargain's a bargain. If the charity shop receive the money they're asking for, it's same as buying from anyone else to resell. Many charity shops with large volumes of donations are happy to see things go, regardless of where it's heading to next.

Rebecca from Meadow Daisy says:

Many charity shops now have their own eBay store and staff who will sort through donations/are trained to find high value items to sell on eBay. My husband and I have been involved with this in the past. I think it's bad for resellers to use charity shops as an outlet to build stock, morally but also because these items have probably already been assessed for resale online…. there are far better outlets for building stock; flea markets, jumble sales, car boot sales, auctions, etc! If an item has slipped through the net and a charity shop is underselling it, I will always let them know.

I then spoke to Caroline Matthews who is extremely popular in the reselling community. Alongside her Instagram and YouTube, you can find her at Find It Flip It. She says:

Building a rapport with staff and managers is an absolute game-changer when it comes to sourcing from charity shops. I now have a few local charity shops where I'm regularly invited into the stock room to have first pick of goods not yet on sale in the shop, and I've picked up some absolute gems this way. Well worth a little bit of time taken to chat with people and build a relationship.

Emma from The Money Whisperer says:

Choose where you shop – you'll get different goods depending on what the local area is like! I love visiting the charity shops in the posh market town where my parents live – most of the clothes are designer or top quality brands! I find that the price paid is fairly standard across charity shops for a top or jeans, but if you are getting a designer brand, you'll be able to resell for much more.

Elle from E L Feelgood's Vintage says:

Initially I felt awful buying from charity shops to resell. It took me a while to look at it as if they were the wholesalers and I was the retailer so now I'm happy in myself with buying from charity shops. Although there are items I often kept myself which defeats the purpose of the whole thing…

It seems that opinion is divided, even among resellers themselves!

How to give back to the charity

If you do purchase item(s) from a charity shop and then sell them on for profit, you might want to think about the ways in which you can give back to the charity, in addition to the money you spent there.

Some ideas include:

  1. A financial donation – perhaps a percentage of the profit you have made.
  2. Donate your unwanted items to that particular charity shop.
  3. Donate your time – charity shops are often crying out for volunteers (especially over school holidays and weekends) so if you really cannot afford to donate money or unwanted items (because you need to sell them), consider giving the charity shop a few hours of your time. They are often happy to welcome people on a permanent basis, or casually as and when you have time.

Remember that if you are buying something with the intention of selling it on for a profit, you must tell HMRC.

Where do you stand on the debate? Leave a comment below telling me your thoughts. 

Is it okay to buy items from a charity shop to resell


15 Comments on “Is it okay to buy items from a charity shop to resell for a profit?”

  1. I don’t think there’s an issue so long as customers are paying what the charity shop is asking on the ticket. Nothing more disgusting that hearing someone haggle in a charity shop though. That doesn’t sit very well with me.

  2. What a silly argument! The CEO of Goodwill was paid nearly $3 million last year. I question if they are still a charity – the inventory is donated and the workers are paid minimum wage – so I have no problem buying for resale from Goodwill – they deserve it.
    The head of Salvation Army was paid less than $30 thousand – I have no problem buying for resale from Salvation Army, a true charity that needs the $$$.

  3. There seem to be few true ‘bargains’ in charity shops anymore – it seems staff will look up particular brands anyway and price them accordingly. Even if you do find a good deal, it’s not as if you’d be making anything significant by reselling. And of course, charities are really grateful for anything you do buy.

    I did apply to volunteer in a local charity shop but never heard back – very strange!

  4. As has been said I think it’s fine and dandy, but they people looking to do this are also often the hagglers. I also once saw a guy asking an old lady to go and look for something in the back which he was obviously collecting to sell on which I didn’t appreciate- they shouldn’t try and rush the pricing process.

  5. I thinks it’s fine. The charity shop are getting the money they have asked for, so you are still supporting them. You are having to put effort into selling it on, I bet occasionally you don’t make a profit on your buys too.

  6. Initially I just felt this was ‘icky’. It didn’t sit well with me. But personally if you build up a nice rapport and relationship with the charity shop, you offer the ‘add donation to charity’ on the eBay listing and especially if you donate 5% of the profit to that charity and any unwanted items I think that more than mitigates the ick factor. As well as giving money for the items and helping rotate stock it’s a win win situation. I definitely don’t like the thought of people hassling the usually elderly usually volunteer charity worker staff for items or haggling. That’s some bad karma there.

  7. I do shop in charity shops all the time, but would always pay the price that is asked. I have been in a charity shop before when someone tried to haggle with the staff member, and the whole shop went silent…I think we were all so stunned someone would actually do that. I think charity shop reselling is completely fine. The price that is asked is paid for, and many charity shop workers have told me that they have more donations than they can manage, so they often have to turn new donations away. I feel I am helping with this by buying their stock regularly. I also tend to pick up items for myself while I’m in there.

  8. I’ve just picked up on this post, it’s a discussion I’ve had many times.

    I volunteer for a small charity, dealers and sellers are so obvious there’s no need to try to pretend to not be. There are a couple of antique/ junk shops in town and the owners buy stuff from us all the time, they don’t get first pick and they pay full price virtually all of the time – unless they’re buying a huge amount of things. We get a good price and if people would rather pay more buying from them than us then so be it!

    We don’t let people just come and look through our stuff, but we do have a few contacts for things like computer games and sewing machines, we know they’ll buy what we have so they get a call when we have something, These are items that might hang around in the shop for a long time otherwise. Like any business it’s better to work together.

  9. This is a total non-issue. If the shop is paid the price they’re asking, what the buyer does with it after is irrelevant.

  10. No, no no! Clothes in charity shops are for people who can’t afford to buy new ones.

    The idea of buying cheap clothes to seell at a profit is morally repugnant.

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