Thursday, May 17

Edinburgh Charity Shops

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Whenever I travel to a new city, I go for a browse though its charity shops. It is my way of seeking out the real side of a city. On a similar jaunt in Edinburgh recently, I was in for a very pleasant surprise; little did I realize that charity shopping is serious business in this city. The humble charity shop has been turned into something of a retail revolution here.

Whether it’s the intense competition that keeps them on their toes or simply because they get better quality stock, they offer as good a shopping experience as the high end boutiques. Encouraged in part by the recession; the city seems to have taken to the idea of thrifty shopping. Rows upon rows of abandoned shops have been taken over by charities and given a whole new lease of life. 

Uniquely in Edinburgh, charity shops seem to cluster in particular areas, especially areas like Stockbridge, Nicolson Street, and Morningside have a high concentration of fabulous shops. What’s more, there is even a charity map of Edinburgh showing the exact location of every shop, you can download it here.

As my hotel was located just off Nicholson Street, I decided to go for a stroll in the Newington area. This is the student area right next to the Edinburgh university and has the biggest concentration of charity shops. Here is a selection of my favourites for you to explore. 

Top of the list has to be Bernardo’s. This Newington gem is a charity shop with a difference. It specializes in vintage stuff and is full of clothes, shoes and accessories arranged into colour-coordinated sections. There was even a stack of vintage suitcases and a Jenners hatbox by the entrance. My lucky find was a pair of black and gold enamelled vintage earrings, which I snapped up in seconds. So go visit Bernardo’s, fill your ears with the sound of 50’s music, buy lovely vintage clothing and feel smug that you're doing something for charity. 

Next on my list is Oxfam, specially its books section. They have cleverly separated their bookshop from the general clothes and bric-a-brac, to give pride of place to the great collection of books. The selection includes a lot of newly published books as well as lot of classics and the extremely cheaply priced hardback section is well worth a look. I found an almost new Lonely Planet guide to Britain! I was on a roll that day for sure. 

Among other shops that I liked was the British Heart Foundation, a lovely big shop with a good collection of kitchen things. 

Another little gem is Shelter, a tiny shop with an amazing selection of women’s clothing, easily the best on the street. Also, as you can see from the photograph below they put real effort in their window display. I especially liked their colourful scarf collection; there were a couple from Topshop, and one from Accessorize, which even had its tag intact. So what did I do? I grabbed it ofcourse! 

PDSA, for pets in need of vets is another nice shop. Very attractively laid out with cheery posters on the walls, metal sculptures by a local artist and quirky display cabinets full of beautiful dresses, specially evening-wear and summer dresses in almost new condition.

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