Treasure Hunting: Five Brand New Op Shop (Thrift Store) Tips

1.  Visit stores that are far away from where you live. It’s easy to get used to the prices and kinds of stock in your local op shop, and to assume that it’s all the same wherever you go. Explore further afield and get a new perspective on prices and the stock available. Not only that, but a new store is a novelty that gives you a fresh eye to hunt out the bargains with. I found the navy cardigan pictured above at a Salvos store in Bentleigh, a suburb I hardly ever visit. It was half-price so cost only a few bucks. I just love the ruffled sleeves. The pendant in the picture was also an op shop find, from Salvos in Camberwell.

2. Don’t make assumptions about how the geographic area affects stock quality and prices. Stores in disadvantaged areas don't necessarily have poor stock, and those in well-heeled parts of town aren't always overpriced. There’s a tiny op shop opposite Fitzroy’s high rise housing estate that obtains some of its donations from the pupils of an exclusive boys grammar school in the south-eastern suburbs. A couple of months ago I visited a Vinnies store in Kew, a prosperous inner eastern suburb of Melbourne, and found it was cheaper than the Vinnies in Malvern. This cute shirtdress was waiting for me -- it was only $8 and brand new. An independent op shop I visited in Kew on the same day also had great prices.

3. Visit op shops when business is quiet. Any day when there’s less competition for the stock is a good day to go op or thrift shopping! Long weekends are a great time to visit; most of my suburb seems to go AWOL if there's a public holiday either end of the weekend. Cold rainy days are also great for secondhand treasure hunting.

4. Leave something behind. On most of my best op shop visits I'll find at least one treasure that wasn’t meant for me. On a recent visit I bought what appeared to be two brand new cushions (Ikea?) for $5 each (pictured above). On the back wall of the same shop I found a gorgeous kitsch print for only $19, but I left it behind because it just didn’t feel right to buy it. That print was meant for someone else, and whoever they are, it's probably looking fantastic in their loungeroom as I write!

5. Wait for prices to go down. As op store mavens know, ‘chainstore’ op shops like Salvos and Vinnies have a ticketing system that involves reducing the price of items that haven't sold after a certain time period. Independent op shops will often overprice their stock for much longer, but eventually they'll reduce the prices on items that aren't selling.

I waited about two months before I nabbed this gorgeous picture at my local op shop. It has a lovely carved frame in gold-coloured metal and is in great condition, but at $70 it was beyond my budget; about $45 would have been my limit. Luckily it was hanging quite high up on the wall so it was easy for shoppers to miss. One morning I dropped into the store and noticed that the price had been halved to $35. I snapped it up immediately! My patience had been rewarded.

Happy hunting!

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