The image of the mothball-scented charity shop has changed greatly over the years and what were once considered as shops that sold out-of-date clothes, tacky ornaments and scratched records have transformed into big moneymaking enterprises.
Over the past 30 years, many of the charity organisations run by foreign residents on the Costa del Sol have realised this and have opened shops in most of the major resort towns along the coast. Some organisations have premises in more than one town, such as the hospice charity Cudeca, which now has 19 shops and outlets in the province of Malaga.
These shops are similar in that they offer the same type of items for sale, but what they also have in common is that they are usually the charity’s most important source of funding.
As non-profit organisations (ONGs) whose aim is to improve the lives of other people through humanitarian, educational or healthcare services, the shops have certain benefits, like tax exemptions.
Cudeca was the first to introduce the concept on the Costa del Sol and this started a trend that has produced many thriving secondhand shops run by selfless volunteers, raising hundreds of thousands of euros in revenue every year. Most shops have a volunteer base of approximately 20 to 50 people if they open only in the mornings and as many as 80 volunteers if the shop opens in the afternoon and evening as well.
The first charity shop
Cudeca, which opened its first shop in Fuengirola in November 1992, enjoyed a year of strong growth in 2016, with several new premises opening, along with a central warehouse that provides logistics services to the entire network.
The cancer hospice, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, now has shops from Malaga to Estepona and the income they generate covers a large part of the expenses it incurs each year. In 2015, the shops generated almost 50 per cent of the overall funds raised. 2016 was a year of healthy progress with the network of shops drawing in 72 per cent of the year’s total figure.
Katie O’Neil, coordinator of Cudeca’s network of commercial outlets, explained to SUR in English why there had been such a drastic rise in funds generated in the shops.
“There has been a big push in the shops since the end of 2015, thus the big change in numbers. We have also opened a new furniture outlet and we offer a delivery and collection service. Fuengirola is our top shop, however, Torre del Mar is a close second. Other shops that have been showing a lot of growth recently are in Torremolinos and Marbella, we are proud to say.”
Age Concern Fuengirola and Mijas was formed by a small group of volunteers in February 2014. The charity now has three drop-in centres, a welfare outreach programme, a shop and a house clearing service.
The Age Concern charity shop in Los Boliches opened its doors in March 2017 and from the first day it has proven to be successful. In the beginning, the shop only attracted the local expat community, but they soon began to lure the local Spanish community as well. The shop prides itself on the quality of the goods it offers and the low prices charged, but, like all of these outlets, the stock depends largely on what people donate. The majority of charity shops on the coast sell clothes, accessories, bric-a-brac, porcelain, toys, DVDs and books, while a few outlets concentrate on furniture and larger items. However, the shop manager never knows what is going to come through the door.
“With merchandise arriving daily we can satisfy even the most fastidious of customers. However, horse tack and vibrating mattresses were beyond our remit,” said Steve Marshall, secretary of Age Concern.
Established in 1999, La Cala de Mijas Lions Club has three charity shops in the same street. The shops generate the bulk of the club’s annual income, grossing between 50,000 and 80,000 euros every year.
“We have three shops and these are a major contributor of funds for the Lions. We are very fortunate, because 2016 was an excellent year and we had a lot of support, both from donors and volunteers,” July Barry, President of La Cala de Mijas Lions, explained.
Other charity outlets include Age Care, a small organisation that operates a secondhand shop in the El Zoco commercial centre in Calahonda. The organiser stress that items donated, if considered unsuitable to sell in the shop, are given to the homeless. Towels and bedding which are past their ‘sell by date’ are given to a local dog charity, so nothing goes to waste.
The ARCH shop, which is based in Alhaurín el Grande, has recently moved to much larger premises because it outgrew the old one. The charity, which cares for abused and mistreated horses, was founded in 2009 and opened its first shop in 2013.
ARCH receives donations from all sorts of people, including a Marbella boutique that donates out-of-season stock, but it has also been given some unusual antique items.
“We receive all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Someone donated a large 1950s wooden Mickey Mouse puppet and we were also given a solid silver tea pot, which we are sending to auction in London,” Liz, the shops coordinator, explained.
Despite more modern and imaginative fundraising initiatives, the revenue raised in the good old-fashioned secondhand shop enables charities based on the Costa del Sol to continue with the excellent services they provide. The shops rely heavily on the generosity of the general public, donations received from private institutions and companies and, of course, the tireless help of those volunteers who offer their services to help run them.