The Oxfam on Drury Lane, Covent Garden

From: Eva
Category: Consumer
Date: 19 May 2005


Despite its central London location this Oxfam disappoints. It's not a complete write off and has on occasion produced some nice, reasonably priced items, though never any great gems. Almost half the shop is dedicated to books, and it has good cookery section. Like most London Oxfams it is overpriced, but certainly not as much as it's Carnaby St / Kings Rd posh sister shops. Oxfam's greatest innovation in the late nineties was to arrange its clothes according to colour, and this works nicely.

It was fun to stumble across Oxfams in Gerona and in Paris earlier in the year. Interestingly neither sold any recycled clothes or junk, just Fairtrade chocolate, wooden spoons and straw basket type produce. The 'charity shop' as an idea hasn't really taken off in other countries the way it has in the UK. In the US there are Thrift shops, but there and in some European cheapo shops the charity part is more towards the poor people who benefit from their prices, than a mission to raise money for cancer or starving children in Africa or such. I pointed out this aspect of where the 'charity' in charity shop should lie to the woman running a Pimlico Imperial Cancer Research shop. She was trying to sell a bad '90s Dior shirt for 30. It wasn't even ironically bad, just dodgy.

A lot of the people who work in charity shops nowadays aren't volunteers, and I suspect some have been coached on what prices to tag onto certain makes. Still it was funny the other day to see a worn Hennes shirt selling in the Drury Lane Oxfam for 8, which was probably more than it went for new, judging by the red pen dot on the label (giving away the fact that it was a sale item to start off with).

There was a big scandal in the late '80s about Oxfam and claims that a large proportion of the money it raised never even gets to it's destination. Oxfam is the Barclays bank of the charity world, and generally it's harder to find a bargain in Oxfam than it is in your average Sue Ryder shop. Finding a bargain is of course more important than being well clothed. The chase for the thrill of a choice item amongst all the crap, at a rewarding price makes even a mediocre Oxfam like the Drury Lane one worth a stop in.

The best charity shops in the world are on Clapham High Street. This is of course because Clapham has the right demographics. The best time to go is on a Tuesday morning before lunch, after the weekend clearout stuff has had time to be sorted and put into the right place. I still haven't worked out when the best time to go to the Drury Lane Oxfam is, I think it doesn't really matter because there aren't enough local people who donate and so dribs and drabs arrive from other shops throughout the week.

The name 'Oxfam' comes from 'OXford FAMine'. We should support this organisation so Oxford graduates have food to put into their bloated bellies. Maybe I'll adopt a young Oxford graduate and send supportive letters.