I've been an avid op shopper for many years. Searching for treasure is one of my favourite pastimes. Opportunity shopping, more commonly known as op shopping, has become more popular over the last few years. The shops are also becoming more professional in terms of store layout, fit-out, and service.
Op shopping has many benefits including recycling, sustainability and affordability. Op shop customers help the environment by reducing the amount of unwanted goods that go to land fill. Items are cheap so the shopper saves money.
Two of the largest and most well known op shop organisations in Victoria are Vinnies Centres and The Salvos stores.
All profits from sales at The Salvos are given back to The Salvation Army programs to help the community. Customers that shop at Vinnies Centres are supporting the local welfare work of the St Vincent de Paul Society. The name Vinnies Centres comes from
Centres of Charity.
Salvos regional store manager Kim Willshire says by shopping at Salvos stores you can find good quality items for cheap prices. Salvos stores also stock sought-after vintage pieces and unique items you can't find anywhere else.
Vinnies retail operations manager for Victoria Michael Rawlinson says shopping at Vinnies Centres offers the customer more options to find unique items, which are different from what everyone else has in their wardrobe and home.
The Salvos try to ensure their stores are as accessible as possible. Their most recent store opening was in the Melbourne suburb of Windsor. A specific door enables customers in wheelchairs and scooters ease of access into the store. New stores in Kew and in Ballarat have internal ramps to give customers access to all areas of the store.
The majority of Vinnies Centres are disability friendly but it's best to call a centre to confirm. To find the contact details of the nearest Vinnies Centre, go to their website and enter your postcode.
Advertising and customer relations
Enticing new customers is important for any business so op shops use various forms of media and advertising.
Kim says The Salvos work hard to ensure their stores are always clean and tidy. They use advertising campaigns and social media to show people the type of great things they can buy. They have opened new concept stores in Bourke Street and Windsor to encourage people who have not previously shopped at Salvos stores to come and visit and see what they're like.
Michael from Vinnies Centres says they entice customers by offering quality items for sale at a good price. They use interesting and fun window displays to attract the attention of passers-by. Vinnies Centres occasionally run advertising campaigns but mainly rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from their regular and loyal customers to encourage others to come along and shop there.
The Salvos offer a variety of discounts every week across all stores such as 20 per cent off items for pensioners and health care card holders each Tuesday. Other discounts include $2 every Monday for selected clothing and 20 per cent off for students every Wednesday. Their store sales can be found on their facebook page.
Each Vinnies Centre runs local promotions and discounts at their own discretion. The best way to find out about these is to be a regular shopper at your local centre.
Kim says The Salvos have pricing guidelines that staff and volunteers follow when pricing items. There may be small differences in pricing between suburbs or towns. Brand names are taken into account when pricing items.
Michael says pricing is done by Vinnies volunteers across the state, of which there are more than 6000 people. The volunteers follow pricing guidelines to ensure consistency across all Vinnies Centres. But as might be expected, that 'human' element to pricing can mean there can be some differences.
People who are being supported by trained St Vincent de Paul Society volunteers can access the goods they need from a Vinnies Centre for free. Anyone in need of support of this kind can call their welfare line on 1300 305 330.
Salvos Stores welcome all volunteers. If a person with a disability wants to volunteer, they may come alone to the store or be accompanied by a carer. The Salvos will allocate duties that are matched with each person's abilities. All volunteers are inducted into the occupational health and safety standards.
Vinnies Centres are always keen to hear from anyone interested in volunteering. Call the hotline on 1300 736 933 to find out how you can get involved in volunteering.