Charity shops or op shops (short for opportunity shops) have been in existence for more than 100 years. They are operated by charities or not-for-profit organisations and are designed to raise funds for the organisation they represent. They also collect donated goods for people in need such as homeless people, those affected by disaster or crisis, or those who are poverty stricken.
Many op shops are staffed by volunteers in the community and are given reduced rental rates for the premises they occupy. These factors, combined with the fact that the goods they sell are donated, mean that op shops can pass on almost all the money they make onto their organisations, which in turn can be used for service provision to those in need in the community.
As op shops are an arm of a charity, they often provide more than just a retail site. Some people who visit op shops are in need of more than just goods or clothing and op shops can provide a central hub for people to form friendships and find support. Volunteers who staff the shops may also find a community of friends amongst those they work with.
Many op shops tailor their wares to the communities in which they operate, taking into account social and economic factors such as demographics, climate and wealth. Some op shops tailor their items to a niche market such as vintage or retro wares.