So, I shall start with a disclaimer.
*This is in no way a comprehensive guide to Charity Shops in Norwich. It is merely my opinion, based on the shops I frequent most often and my experiences when I have visited them.*
Now we’ve cleared that up I can get on with things.
I shop in Charity shops A LOT. I mean really a lot. Most of my wardrobe comes from a Charity Shop and I find them a great source for good quality clothes I can actually afford and low cost vintage.
When you go to a new city, however, it’s difficult to know where to start. High Street shops tend to be just that, on the High Street, nice and easy to find and shop in. Charity Shops, however aren’t so convenient and it can be hard to know where to find the good ones.
Here’s a nice handy Google Map of the shops I’m about to talk about.
View Norwich Charity Shoppers Guide in a larger map
SCOPE – Hall Road
This is a tiny tiny Charity Shop that often piles things on the floor outside. Although the clothing racks tend to be mostly full of Primark and random catalogue labels it’s worth a scout for the occasional amazing bargain as most of their dresses never go above £4.99.
I’ve bought 2 gilt framed mirrors from here for £1.25 each and last week there was a Burberry Prorsum overcoat outside for £9.99, it was a little shabby, but for someone with the skill to patch it up it could have been a bargain.
BIG C APPEAL – Timberhill
This shop, on the corner opposite John Lewis has great window displays full of nick nacks, but once you get inside it seems that they are all in the window as it’s mostly clothing.
Great for second hand wedding dresses and evening wear upstairs. Downstairs has a fairly good selection of decent quality clothing with dresses priced around £8 and skirts at £4
BIG C APPEAL – Castle Meadow
This store is like a hidden secret, yet it’s right in the centre of town. Way more productive and cheaper than it’s cousins less than 2 minutes walk away on London Street.
The layout is shabby but I’ve found some great vintage in here, including a Frank Usher jacket, bought for £1 and a fantastic mens wool suit for £10.
CANCER RESEARCH – London Street
My opinion is this shop is expensive. It seems they spot a label they recognise and price it up for about £20 regardless of desirability. This is, however, the shop where I found my Mulberry dress for £12, and I have also found a lovely Oasis dress for £6, so it’s always worth a look, but generally I find it full of overpriced mid range high street stuff.
BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION – London Street
An odd one this. I have never bought anything here. Not once.
It does have a vintage rail, which sometimes has some lovely pieces on it, but it’s a limited selection and tends to be around the £15+ mark, which isn’t the kind of price I like to pay unless it’s something REALLY special. Last time I popped in they had a gorgeous 1970s Frank Usher maxi dress, priced at £90. It was still there when I went back a month later.
This shop also sells a range of really awful cheap “new” tat, like those feathery wool scarves and cheap costume jewellery.
OXFAM – St Giles Street
A very small selection of clothing in here, but the prices are reasonable and it can be good quality.
Better in price range than the larger Oxfam store on Magdalen Street
ARC – Lower Goat Lane
I don’t even bother with this one anymore. It’s stuffed to the rafters with clothes, and quite nicely presented, but generally it is pretty dull ex mid range high street like Dorothy Perkins and it’s priced at between £5-£8, which is a bit much for a jersey top. Suddenly you’ll come across something that looks quite nice, you’ll pull it out, and you’ll find it’s 3 times as expensive as everything else.
SALVATION ARMY – Lower Goat Lane
The smallest clothing selection of the lot, but very reasonably priced and worth a look for the occasional piece of vintage, fantastic coat or amazing scarf in the boxes at the back.
What this shop IS really great for is retro furniture and home wares, and they’ll deliver, for a fee.
RED CROSS – St Benedicts Street
I seem to find a fair bit of 1980s High Street in here, which I quite like. Prices are very reasonable.
It’s free standing racks can be a bit stuffed, but it does make an effort to arrange things by colour.
OXFAM – Magdalen Street
It’s big, well stocked and tidy, but it’s not the cheapest in the world. Pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a larger Oxfam store
SAVE THE CHILDREN – Magdalen Street
So far this shop has escaped the Mary Portas treatment and is actually one of my favourites. It’s small, but has resisted the urge to fill every area of it’s limited floor space with free standing racks. Occasionally it has the tendency to get over excited by a label and over price something, but generally you can get dresses for a very reasonably £5-6 and skirts around £3-4.
Occasional bits of lovely vintage and good designer labels.
SENSE – Anglia Square
This shop has an excellent range of “ex catalogue” items, that’s worth a look if you’re not a big fan of second hand clothes. If you are then skip those racks and go straight to the “charity” racks.
Sense has a LOT of stock, I could end up in here all day to look through everything carefully. Helpfully split into skirts and trousers, tops, knitwear, dresses etc and arranged by size. It’s worth checking the condition carefully, but when you find something it’ll likely be a bargain.
SCOPE – Anglia Square
Every time I’ve visited this shop I’ve found the clothing racks full of cheap market stall clothes, cheap looking suits and over valued mid range High Street. Maybe I just miss all the good stuff.
I still go in because round the corner they sometimes have some fantastic retro furniture at excellent prices and I like to go and open and close all the wardrobes and drawers and fantasise about having enough room for a decent bedroom set.
PACT – Anglia Square
Another large, stuffed full shop. They have racks arranged in size, so everything in a size 8 is on the rack nearest the door and moving back the sizes get larger. Dresses and suits are then in a seperate section at the back.
Again it’s worth keeping an eye on the quality in here, but it can be great for vintage knits and shirts for around £2-3. Recently, however, I’ve noticed a disturbing propensity for them to suddenly price something at £20 for no real reason, when everything else is still £4 or £5.
My last trip turned up a cashmere overcoat (sadly too big) for £3.99, however on the same rack a bolero of no discernable label was £15. Random.
Norwich market image by Martin Pettitt