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Why Sacred Heart Mission op shops are more endearing than the rest

Op Shop Store Coordinator Jacob Miller and Frankie from

28 August 2020

By Jacob Miller, Store Coordinator at our Preston op shop

I had just started working in a “retro- focused” op shop when the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2009 and was about to revolutionise the charity retail industry. People from all walks of life were thrown to the doorsteps of op shops, and sales skyrocketed. Yet the revolution was bigger than simply an increase in demand. Op shops were emerging from small, church-associated “dumping grounds” to High Street grooves filled with young people discovering treasures. 

Part of this influence trended from the United Kingdom, where retail expert Mary Portas reshaped the way charity retailers saw themselves. Her ethos? Creating community and implementing retail strategies. Mary’s revolutionary ideas ignited my career and cemented a dream: to one day work in London, the home of the charity store transformation.

A 'magical makeover' in five weeks

Fast forward to 2018 – and I have my very first experience with Sacred Heart Mission (SHM) when I had a coffee with the Op Shops Manager and I remember being struck by how the stores had vibrancy and edge while uniquely reflecting their local communities.

I was brought on to help set up SHM’s twelfth second-hand store in Preston, which was a unique stretch north for the op shops that originated in St Kilda.

Working as the new shop’s coordinator, in just five weeks we completely transformed what used to be a fast-food hub, into a cave of pre-loved treasures.

Staff, volunteers and the like achieved this magical makeover a mere six hours before opening its doors for the first time to the local community, who have helped make the op shop the success it is today.

We worked hard to let the neighbourhood know about the Mission’s work and what the new op shop would offer. It was also the first time I witnessed “Mission Magic”.

Our op shops create community

Everyone working at SHM – from the organisation’s board to the sales assistants – feels connected through our shared purpose. The organisational values of welcome, community, challenge, accountability, and innovation are shared by every person. We are creative, innovative, and unique. We combine fun and purpose with the tangible sense of “Mission Magic”.

SHM stores are the embodiment of our values. Every day we create community. Every day we work incredibly hard and repeat the phrase, “every $4 is a three-course meal”.

To London's op shop emporiums and back

With a year under my belt, and work experiences at other well-known stores, as well as the opportunity to successfully set up and host a pop-up shop amongst the galleries of MONA, (and dubbed, ‘The brain behind […] the most stylish thrift emporium in the southern hemisphere!’ by art critic Leo Schofield), what was left but for me was to live my dream of working in London; and perhaps lead the most stylish thrift emporium in the world!

After months of research and communication with various charity retailers choosing the London shop and company that best suited my values was a challenge.

Before the pandemic, I worked and volunteered in multiple shops, yet each time there was something that just wasn’t quite right – and no, it wasn’t the cold, the crowds, the low wages and high-cost living.

I don’t mean to misrepresent my experience in London. I had the best time exploring Europe, the UK and all the charity shops on offer.

I learnt so much to bring back to Australia such as: how to make online sales more effective, how to better engage with the community, how commercially-minded focus adds and when it inhibits, and how to balance the scales of fun and enjoyment with targets and profits. 

But why did I come back to Sacred Heart Mission's op shops?

So many organisations are disconnected from their purpose, but not here. Each of our stores live it daily through interactions with clientele and through a workforce of people who know and believe that their actions make a difference.

Why did I return to Sacred Heart Mission? Because we never forget that, “every $4 is a three-course meal”. And because we are already working in the most stylish, mission aligned, thrift emporiums in the world.

Keeping our op shops and the 'Mission Magic' alive during COVID-19

Now in 2020 our industry and the world are challenged again by extraordinary circumstances. Australia is on the cusp of another recession that threatens to exceed the Global Financial Crisis in severity and length.

SHM is called more than ever to be creative, innovative, and unique. To be sure that we can continue to support people experiencing hardship, through providing direct assistance, offering spaces of community engagement and by selling affordable goods.

Our staff and volunteers will work hard to continue to keep the “Mission Magic” alive.

Please support us by shopping, donating, and volunteering, when the COVID-19 restrictions ease and we'll be able to reopen our stores.

In the meantime, you can op shop from the comfort and safety of your home - in our online stores on ebay and Instagram:

Op shop from home

Sacred Heart Mission acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal owners of country throughout Victoria and pays respects to them, their culture and their elders past, present and emerging.


Sacred Heart Mission believes that the diversity of abilities, genders, sexualities, relationship identities, bodies and cultures in our community enriches us all and should be celebrated. Everyone is welcome at our table.