During our Wikipedia editathon last week I discovered archive news reports of the first ever Scottish charity shop. Ten years before the first Oxfam shop in Oxford. I was editing a new page about the University of Edinburgh Settlement.
In 1936 Grace Drysdale made a film about the everyday activities of the Settlement community and proposed the creation of a ‘Thrift shop’ based on an American idea. The shop would receive items that people did not want, and would accept anything from ‘luggage to cooking utensils’.
A Thrift Shop committee was established in 1936, and the first shop ‘Everybody’s Thrift Shop’ opened in April 1937 at 79a Nicholson Street, 10 years before Oxfam established their first charity shop in 1947. In 1938 the thrift shop was reported as being ‘a more ambitious application of the jumble sale idea’.
When the shop first opened it was a great success. People queued for an hour beforehand in anticipation and policemen were on hand to ensure the stall-holders were not overwhelmed. Reports confirm that bargains: crystal, evening shawls and furniture were to be found and that one woman left delighted with ‘a handsome suit once worn it was whispered, by a professor’. Women carrying bulky purchases were ushered out to make room for other shoppers.