What a bargain? Volunteers Jackie and Rose from the Limerick Animal Welfare Shop with the wedding dress which is on sale for €180. Picture: Adrian Butler
Limerick has no shortage of high street clothing stores with designer labels and price tags, but often shoppers fail to notice where the real bargains and treasures are hidden - inside one of Limerick’s many charity shops.
One such shop is the Limerick Animal Welfare Shop on William Street, where one generous donor recently handed in a brand new wedding dress, complete with a matching veil, tiara and shoes.
Director Mary Tuohy estimates that the whole set is valued at a minimum of €2,000, but they are selling in on for an unbelievable price of €180.
Not only is this an incredible bargain - one of many available in charity shops throughout Limerick - but it also serves a great purpose to those less fortunate.
“We have fantastic bargains. We get in a lot of new clothes, designer clothes and clothes that have never been worn. Lovely shoes, handbags, suits, trousers tops... everything you can think of,” says Mary as customers browse the many colourful rails in the shop.
“We’re ticking over all the time. As soon as the stuff is out the summer stuff is going so we’re just constantly filling up the shelves all day here. We get tons of stuff coming in as donations and we never have to ask for them. We also have lovely people working here.”
Volunteer at the Limerick Animal Welfare shop Katherine McCrann also praised the kindness of their customers, thanking them for their donations and loyalty.
“This year has been better than last year. It’s been up in the first four months in comparison to last year. 100% of the money that comes in here to the shop all goes to Limerick Animal Welfare. The customers are great.”
The volunteers who work in these kind of shops are to be admired for the endless unpaid hours that they give up for charity, both inside the shops and out.
“One of our volunteers makes unique decorations from paper, priced at under €5. She also makes lovely homemade scarves to sell in the shop. Our manager makes handmade cards for every occasion and we sell them for €2,” says Katherine gesturing towards the many quirky items and glittering cards behind her.
The generosity of both staff and customers is without question, as this is one of many charity shops which are constantly kept busy throughout the year.
The Irish Cancer Society Shop has even had to move to a bigger premises to give their many customers a more enjoyable shopping experience.
The new shop, located on William Street, is bright and colourful and has plenty of room for shoppers to browse their diverse range of items.
“We moved shop about three weeks ago. The other shop was so small that we needed more room. We got a lot of donations and we couldn’t show them so we ended up moving here and ever since, the space we have is fantastic. Even the customers are saying that it’s a fantastic shop with more space to move around,” explains shop manager Debra Devereux.
“Everything in our shop is reasonably priced and we don’t overprice anything. We keep things as reasonable as possible because there are families out there who can’t afford big prices.”
The shop recently received a beautiful collection of costume jewellery, which is silver in colour with red or blue gems. The jewellery is valued at €250, but any interested buyers can purchase it for just €25 a piece.
The window of the shop showcases four designer dark-coloured dresses worth over €100 each, ranging in price from €25 to €35.
Right across the road from the Irish Cancer Society shop, the Enable Ireland shop window displays a designer watch, bag and shoes, as well as a vintage silver set and a 9 carat silver bracelet.
“We’ve a silver and diamond Dolce and Gabbana watch priced at €100 but it would have been worth nearly €800 in the boom time. We buy batteries ourselves so they’re included,” says staff member Mary McDonough as the busy city traffic moves behind us.
“We dress the window every second Wednesday and you’d actually have people queueing up for stuff. We’ve always been kept busy. We’re here 25 years last week,” explains Mary proudly.
Inside the shop, pleased customer Joe Maher from Carew Park happily shows off the ornament which he has just purchased - a wooden object in the shape of an angel.
“I’m not too sure what it is, but it reminds me of an angel. I’ll make some kind of a candle holder out of it. It cost me €12.50. It’ll be something for me to do in my retirement. It’s a kind of a talking point as well,” laughs Joe as he points to the price tag on the bottom, which shows an original price of $69 - a real bargain.
Similarly, you can always find a good bargain in The Milford Hospice shop on Thomas Street, which is crammed with clothes, books and gifts, without the hefty price tag.
“Some high street stuff comes in that still has the label on. It could be worth between €100 and €150 and we sell it for €20 usually, but they’re going for €10 at the moment in the sale in our half price sale,” says shop supervisor Marie Enright, pointing to her impressive collection of sale items.
“Sometimes we save gift items and collectors items for Christmas but we get so much of it in that we’re happy to let it go this time of year as well. We get a lot of unwanted presents that still have the box and everything, they’re like brand new.”
As with all of the shops, Mary says that it’s the caring customers and selfless volunteers that allow them to keep their doors open.
“We’re very lucky at Milford. Thanks to sponsors we get so much lovely stuff. For that reason we can sell all day long. We’re very busy.”
The same can be said for the St Vincent de Paul shop on Thomas Street.
“We get a lot of generous donations. All of the work here is done through volunteers and people on schemes. We could have 20 people working at one time to make this the biggest and best charity shop in town,” says staff member John Bromell.
The shop is also full of fantastic bargains, including great back to school offers such uniforms for €1 and exam papers and school books for 50c.
The shop also has an impressive window display of porcelain dolls, designer dresses and designer bags, priced between €10 and €40 each.
One thing which all of the charity shops around town have in common is their unbeatable value. A complete outfit can be purchased for under €20. An armful of books and toys can be bought for under €10 - prices which are unheard of elsewhere.
These shops are always packed with humble, hard working staff who don’t reap any monetary benefits, but instead benefit those who need it much more.
In future, shoppers should consider a charity shop - and their wallet - next time they browse the streets of Limerick.
For more information on charity shops around Limerick, visit the Irish Charity Shops Association on http://www.icsa.ie/shops/limerick/