What Makes A Good Op Shop

The following is based on actual events!

I was left a message by an op shop President asking for help from the lovely folks who follow and contribute to the I Love To Op Shop Facebook Page on how to improve the op shop she volunteers at.

These are some of the lovely suggestions forwarded by some very thoughtful people who took time out to help, the ideas come from both sides of the counters, the op shoppers and the volunteers.

Now not all of these will be practical in all stores due to so many reasons such as size, budget (and lack of it), technical limitations, lack of other volunteers etc... but being able to put this overview together was important I felt. 

 Who are you?

Do local people know who you are, where you are, when you are open and what you raise money for and do you have clear signage?

Can you do any of the following?
  • Get in the local paper a few times a year if possible with events, news, requests for help, feel good stories...
  • Feature in any community diaries
  • Get on community radio
  • Enter local business and volunteer awards
  • Get in touch with your local council to see if they can organise community run op shop tours
  • Get in touch with local State and federal MP's to see if they can offer support in anyway, it may be as simple as covering the cost of some printing or appearing at an event 
  • Advertise on Gumtree
  • Be featured in Local Notes

Money, Money, Money 

Chances are you won't be able to please all the people all the time!!!

Sales are probably the time for rock bottom or bargain prices.  You can choose how often you have them and if they are store wide or by sections.  You can choose if they run for a day or a week or a weekend.
You can choose if all items are one price or have a percentage off. Fill a bag for a $5 can be used on difficult to move stock.

Have a clear sign on the door that advertises specials and one inside the shop.

If items are valuable, place them in a secure position within the shop

You can say no to customers who expect you to offer an item way below it's value.  Turn the situation around, tell them it's a possibility once your utilities get discounted, your public liability insurance gets discounted, your rent gets discounted etc...  until then sorry but no.

We are not all created equal.

Prices should reflect this.

If it's rare, vintage, designer, brand new, retro or on trend you have every right to expect customers to pay a little more than run of the mill second hand products.

Get familiar with designer labels and create a list.  You could allocate them low (Kmart, Target, Big W), medium (Jacquie E, Country Road, Sportsgirl) to high range (Bassike, Jac & Jack, Lover) 


Get Creative

Again smaller shops can be limited on space but it may be worth making a small area that displays a few things creatively

These are just a few items from the web on other op shops for some inspiration

Sacred Heart Mission C/O Melbourne Places
Op shop Mannequin from Salvos Windor launch C/O I Love To Op Shop

Window display - Age Concern, Camden St, Dublin
C/O Vintage Suburbia
Think about some of the following 
  • Can you arrange clothes by size and then colours or shades?
  • Do you have space for a retro rail
  • Can your book area accommodate a chair or seat
  • Do you have room for a few toys away from a main door to entertain children?
  • Can you run seasonal displays and end of season sales?
  • If you get a fantastic piece of furniture that would be a great display soloution consider keeping it to add value to the shop overall?
  • Can you accommodate a backboard to display outfits
  • Can you add some tasteful background music
  • Do you have room for displays on a footpath
  • Can you liaise with some locals at a farmers market and sell some local produce like jams, marmalade's, pickles, relishes and agree upon a profit split?
  • Can you date each item as it goes on the shop floor 
Lemon cordial being sold at Woomelang Op Shop



Are you on the web?

Now this doesn't have to be complicated or expensive!
Start simple if needed - get a Facebook page.

Well you can post pictures of a few items each week for starters, you may find this increases actual feet through the door, it may generate more interest when people start seeing the variety of donations come and go.
Post news.  This can include sales, offers and events.  Tell people about the great work you do, blow your own trumpet!  People love knowing how the money they help to raise is being put towards great causes.

Ask for help.  Do you need volunteers, are you low on clothing, need bric a brac, books... you may prompt people to get round to doing the long overdue cupboard cull and hand it all over to you!!

Spread your wings and enjoy the fact people from all over the country or world may start asking if certain items are for sale or available in the shop.

Get a free or cheap website designed.  If you have no idea about the web how about putting a quick sign in the window asking for help.
It may just be a one page site with a picture of the op shop, brief description, contact number, address and opening hours.

Consider selling some items on Ebay 

Do You Post?

Auspost make it fairly straight forward to post via their prepaid satchel options, they can include a 500g bag or a 3kg bag which can be sent via regular or express postage, proof of postage can be obtained also.

You will find if people see something they want in some cases they may prefer this option even if they live 5 minutes away as they may work all week during your opening hours.

And finally...

  • Op shops need to smell nice not musty
  • Op shops should not sell damaged, faulty or dirty stock 

I'd love to be able to keep adding to it so please keep the ideas coming!! 


  1. All great ideas, my philosophy is that if you can take just 2 or 3 points and act on them, then you've had a successful experience and your op shop will benefit!

  2. I attend an op shop where the person in charge wants it to look like a department store but it is boring.Some buyers are looking for curiosity items and old vintage goods that may need fixing up. This store throws them away.A majority of customers go to these stores because they are looking for something different and I think a section should be set aside for them.

  3. Simple. A person will visit an op shop twice. If the second time they visit they see the same things they saw on the first visit, it's unlikely you'll see them a third time. On the third visit, they need to find some quality things they find of interest, if they do you'll see them a fourth, fifth and sixth time.