Switch someone’s old into your next new and help save the planet.

When did op shops and thrift shops become a big thing? To be honest, they’ve been around a long time, just think of the inter-generational heritage of the Salvos and Vinnies stores.

Long before ‘vintage’ meant only cars and wine, op shops were a popular place to donate your old stuff. You knew it provided cost-effective options for shoppers with limited means and supported your local charities of choice. And savvy op shoppers knew that high quality items found their way into the stores via wardrobe clean-outs prompted by life events ie. change of address, kids growing up, death or divorce.

Fast fashion wasn’t a big thing then, so clothing was generally good quality with a long life. Everyone knew that the clothes were still good enough to re-use and it would be “such a waste” to bin them. This was the genesis of the vintage fashion trend which has helped amplify the message of sustainability.

Op shopping for vintage style (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)
Op shopping for vintage style (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)

Fast fashion vs sustainability

One of the reasons op shopping is a good fit with sustainability is because it extends a garment’s lifecycle. Fast fashion is a new term for an old habit: quick, cheap, disposable purchases. In this case short-lived trendiness, a quick ‘sugar fix’ of fashion, leaving you a little satisfied but not deeply so.

Wanting more? Of course you will, it’s like fast food but without the (dubious) nutrition. It’s all about keeping up with consumer demand for always wanting something new. But we know those ‘old’ clothes often become landfill.

Recycling your clothing is a great way to reduce such landfill. Consider donating to op shops or reselling them yourself online, at car boot sales or garage sales. It also saves on the resources that make those items (yes, that means you’re saving the planet too).

In fact there’s a whole movement underway for the annual Garage Sale Trail, read more here.

Sell or buy at The Garage Sale Trail across Australia in November each year.
Sell or buy at The Garage Sale Trail across Australia in November each year.

Resellers and thrifters

Following the worldwide trend to online shopping, there’s even a category of online businesses who do all the leg-work for you: trawling the shops for perfectly good items and then offering them for resale from their own digital stores. Eco Thrifter at Forster is a good local example, selling pre-loved, vintage and unused treasures, all shipped 100% plastic-free for that extra boost of ecofriendly sustainability.

This is a great option if you’re not into the thrill of the treasure hunt, or don’t like the musty smells of some charity stores, or just don’t have the time to find the exact piece you’re after. Sure there’s a reseller’s markup included but then you haven’t wasted hours of your own precious time.

Getting expert help is always a good decision.

Op shopping at garage sales (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)
Op shopping at garage sales (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)

Op shops of the Barrington Coast

The Barrington Coast is a treasure trove of op shops, there are over 30 across our region so there’s always one or more close to you, see the list below.

In these shops you’ll find a huge choice of pre-loved stuff waiting to become someone’s big new thing. And it’s not just clothing treasures you’ll find, there are household items including books, CDs, vinyl records and home décor items too. Check out the retro crockery, picnic items and funky stuff for those with a bit of decorating flair. Who knows, you may even have your very own ‘Antiques Roadshow’ moment with that overlooked item you just uncovered.

Op shopping for cool retro homewares (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)
Op shopping for cool retro homewares (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)

Top tips for op shopping like a boss

Here are some tips for a deeply satisfying shopping experience at op shops, garage sales and car boot sales:

  1. Allocate the right amount of time: Op shops are like Doctor Who’s Tardis: bigger on the inside than they look from the outside! The aisles will be full from floor to ceiling so don’t rush it, be slow and steady, like that op shopping turtle.
  2. Be persistent: You need to be a regular visitor down those aisles, so get friendly with the staff and find out when the new stock is sorted and put out for sale.
  3. Be thorough: You know there’ll always be lots of stock and sometimes it’s not displayed in the same spot twice, so keep an eye out beyond your ‘usual’ section in the shop.
  4. Learn to scan: It will take you forever to look at every item so scan for colours in your preferred palette and preferred style. This means you need to know what you’re looking for, so you need a plan.
  5. Have a plan: Know what you need and look for those items. Otherwise you can go down the rabbit hole of endless browsing and impulse buying, which isn’t really the point here. And keep photos on your phone of the looks you’re after, as inspiration.
  6. Look for quality: Unlike the old days, op shops are now full of donated fast fashion items. While some of these may be just what you need, give preference to items with quality fabrics and timeless looks. (See, you’re already shopping like a seasoned vintage stylist!)
  7. Know your fix-it skills: You may ruin that outfit unless you know how to take it in, let it out, take it up or let it down. Find a good seamstress and your worries are over.
  8. Ignore gender or age: This isn’t a department store, so feel free to cross boundaries to find something fabulous. Who cares if that’s a man’s shirt or a woman’s scarf? If you absolutely love it, buy it. Rules are for others.
  9. Set your budget: This will help prevent an op shopping frenzy. Even better, take only cash… this will really enforce a little restraint. And it means you can probably come back again sooner.
  10. Shop midweek: Donations are mostly made on weekends with sorting done Mon-Tue. Hit the shops Wed-Fri for a head start on the weekend warriors.
  11. Say no to plastic bags: Always take your own cotton tote bags to carry your booty home. Longer straps allow you to sling them over your shoulder, leaving both hands free to browse like a pro.
  12. See it, love it, buy it: Ask yourself: do I really need this? If it passes this test, then don’t hesitate. You can be pretty sure that it won’t be there next time, even if you’re just doing another loop around the aisles while you decide. But if it’s not really the style/colour you’re after, leave it to be discovered by a fellow op shopper.
  13. Be kind: Because it’s cool to be kind. And be patient too, especially if you plan to haggle over price, as most staff are volunteering their time.
Choose resellers that use plastic-free packaging (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)
Choose resellers that use plastic-free packaging (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)
Op shopping around Forster with @Eco_thrifter

Op shop locations across the Barrington Coast

These shops are open on various days and times. Look them up online or give them a call before you visit.

Bulahdelah:

  • St John’s Anglican Church Op Shop, Stroud St 4997 1869
  • Reviva at Bulahdelah Waste Management Centre, Recovery Rd 4997 4515

Coopernook:

  • Coopernook Op Shop, 4 Petrie St 6556 3105

Darawank:

  • The Nook Op Shop, 8 Failford Rd 0476 169 579

Forster:

  • Lifeline Shop 1/35 Breese Pde 6555 8172
  • Salvos Forster Family Store, 5 Enterprise Crt 6554 7207
  • St Albans Anglican, Parking Area, Head St 6555 4267
  • Vinnies Forster, 134 Little St 6554 6079

Gloucester:

  • Anglican Church Op Shop, King St 6558 1065
  • Charity Book Sales, cnr Phillip St and Church St (open daily 10am-2pm)
  • Gloucester Community Shop, 41 King St (open Tue-Sat 8am-2pm)
  • Tip Shop, Gloucester Waste Management Centre, 385 Thunderbolts Way 6538 5265
  • Majestic Family Store, 30 Church St 6558 2122

Hallidays Point:

  • Lions Pop Up Shop, 85 High St, Black Head 0413 427 644

Harrington:

  • St Peter’s Anglican Church, 32 High St 6556 1111

Nabiac:

  • 2nd Chance Op Shop, 37 Nabiac St 6554 1876

Old Bar:

  • Vinnies Old Bar, 44 Old Bar Rd 6553 3993

Taree:

  • Reviva at Taree Waste Management Centre, The Bucketts Way, Tinonee 6551 5266
  • Salvos Taree Family Store, 67 Pulteney St 6552 5039
  • Taree Lifeline, 43 Manning St 6552 6544
  • Taree Anglican Blue Cross, 43 Manning St 6557 7179
  • Vinnies Taree, 135 Victoria St 6552 2269
  • Valley Vintage, 66 Chatham Ave Ph: 6552 3176

Tea Gardens:

  • St Andrews Op Shop, Witt & Ogden Sts 4997 1869
  • Vinnies Tea Gardens, Shop 13 Myall Quays Shopping Village 4997 0122
  • Reviva at Tea Gardens Waste Management Centre, Winta Rd 4997 2287

Tuncurry:

  • Sea Changes Op Shop, 2/88 Manning St 6557 6075
  • Reviva at Tuncurry Waste Management Centre, Midge Orchid Rd 6554 9471
  • Animal Welfare League Op Shop, 8/64 Manning St 0408 670 757

Wingham:

  • Vinnies Wingham, 16 Isabella St 6553 5471
  • Lifeline Wingham, 41 Isabella St 6553 0188
  • Mid Coast Outreach Op Shop, 20 Wynter St 6553 4497
Op shopping at the Salvos (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)
Op shopping at the Salvos (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Small changes to your own shopping behaviour make a big difference, thank you for helping change the way we impact the environment.

Download the MidCoast Council Op Shop flyer here.

Learn more about MidCoast Council’s waste and recycling initiatives.

Op shopping at Gloucester with @Eco_thrifter
Op shopping at Vinnies is a tradition (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)
Op shopping at Vinnies is a tradition (photo by @Eco_Thrifter)

Instagram: For the curious