A beginner’s guide to Op Shopping

Samantha Arthur, Op Shop Marketing Coordinator
Samantha Arthur Marketing and Digital Coordinator
Preston op shop storefront

For some, op shopping can be an overwhelming experience; a cacophony of colours, shapes and objects – it can be hard to know where to begin!

For others, op shopping is a cathartic experience. The thrill of the hunt is for some, addictive. That $5 price tag on a $100 item is a bargain worth digging for. It’s also an activity that gives back – op shopping with Sacred Heart Mission not only supports people experiencing homelessness it also contributes to the circular economy.

If you are new to op shopping and want to make the most out of your visits to our stores, this is the guide for you. We have asked our seasoned op shop customers what their top tips are for a budding op shopper.

Take your time

Op shopping shouldn’t be done in a rush, so make sure you give yourself time to really enjoy the hunt.

If you’re overwhelmed by racks and racks of clothes, first start by colour and fabric, that way you can find what you’re looking for without going through every single item on the rack.

Sacred Heart Mission glass cabinets are a wonderful source of oddities, collectibles, antiques and jewellery, visually merchandised to entice the senses.

If you’re an avid reader, op shops are a great way to purchase the latest literary releases at a fraction of the cost! Take your time and browse the fiction and non-fiction areas and explore our vintage book collections.

Many of our op shoppers choose to stick around and shop in our stores after they drop off donated items, a wonderful way to give back in multiple ways.

Explore different areas

Many of our op shoppers tell us that they like to explore the whole store, and often check out the masculine section for oversized T-shirts, baggy comfortable jumpers or that cool oversized leather jacket. Pyjama sections can be great for silk slips and high-end undergarments.

Don’t stick to one section, explore, explore, explore!

Each Sacred Heart Mission store always has a haberdashery section, and a linen area, these are places to find excellent second-hand quality bed sheets, vintage blankets , or pure cotton table clothes.

And always check the stationery areas, they are a terrific way to save on school essentials or stationery needed at home!

Check the condition

When you have found that perfect garment, make sure to check its condition thoroughly. There’s nothing worse than finding that perfect jumper only to try it on at home and find a hole under the arm!

Our staff do their best to check for any flaws in the item, often writing ‘As is’ and pricing accordingly if the item is still saleable.

For example, a jumper – check the fabric is in good condition, 100% cotton or wool on the tag is a great sign the garment will last, items made of cheap fabric or polyester will not stay in your wardrobe forever.

Check the underarms and neck for piling or stains and flip the item inside out, check for holes or any issues with the garment so you know it is of an excellent quality.

Think outside of the box

It is always frustrating when you like a garment, but something is off – it fits well, but the buttons don’t suit. It’s a great blazer but the shoulder pads are too dated.

The answer? Mend it!

Clothes can easily be restored with some new buttons and tailoring. There are heaps of YouTube tutorials that can assist you, and when in doubt you can get some extra help from a local tailor. Your new custom garment will look full price. A second-hand pair of shoes can look fantastic with a good clean.

Pro tip: Clean your sneakers with windex and swap out the old laces for fresh news one!

Do some quick research

Having your phone handy is fantastic way to understand more about the item you are about to purchase.

Is it rare or collectible? What is its resale value? Where is this item made?

The more you know, the better you can spot that bargain.

Use apps like Depop, eBay or a simple Google search to find out more about an item.

Create a flexible wish list

It’s great to have a wish list of finds, but we suggest being open to the unexpected!

We always have clothes shoes and accessories, but the joy of our stores is you never know what’s going to end up on the store floor!

A handy way to remember all those things you need is to keep a list in your phone notes and have a glance at it before you start your op shopping adventure, so you remember to look in those areas!

Remember, our stores price items at 1/3 of the recommended retail price, so if you can wait, score that bargain at an op shop and shop sustainably instead of paying full price and brand new.

Explore all our unique stores

Each Sacred Heart Mission op shop has its own flavour, explore them all and find your favourite.

Our Commercial Road store in Prahran is a high-end designer wonderland while our Cheltenham store is known for its vast book section. Savvy thrifters often know when that furniture collection hits the floors, especially at our Chapel Street store.

Explore our north side stores too, known for their amazing interiors, the Fitzroy, North Fitzroy and Preston stores receive excellent donations from their local community.

Our donors tend to drop off items on their way to or from work and on the weekends. It takes 24–48 hours for us to sort through donations, so popping in on your day off during the week or Sunday (yes, we are open on Sundays!) is a great way to grab that fresh stock straight from the sorting room.

Have fun, become a Mission Mate!

Op shopping is not supposed to feel like regular shopping. Enjoy the unique experience and connect with your community.

Sign up to Mission Mates for loyalty points and rewards at the register at any of our 12 stores, and feel good knowing that you are part of a community that’s making a real difference.

And if you find you just can’t stay away from our amazing op shops, you can always join the team and become an op shop volunteer!