Edinburgh is not that large of a city compared to London, so being here for a week was a different experience. We were lucky to have a good week of weather, and I even got sun burned when we went horseback riding. It is a beautiful city and the dormant volcano, Arthur’s Seat, right behind Pollock Halls was incredible. There were only a few main streets full of restaurants, shops, and museums, so it was possible to see most of Edinburgh in just a few hours. We walked down the main road daily, and I noticed there were various charity shops and thrift stores along the main strip. They were all fairly close together and each had different charities on the sign. The few I saw were Cancer Research UK, Your Local Hospice Shop, British Heart Foundation, Age Scotland, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, and PDSA: for pets in need of vets. The merchandise in the stores did not vary much from what I could see. They mostly carried second-hand clothes, books, furniture, and other donated items. It was surprising to see so many similar stores along the same street and how they advertised the charity on the sign.These stores reminded me of similar ones in the United States, such as The Salvation Army and Goodwill. The Salvation Army is in the United Kingdom as well, but these are the two most recognized thrift stores in the U.S. The article linked above describes how these stores are becoming trendier, while “The main focus has been on improving the overall shopping experience, but other factors, like an improved donation process, have been taken into account to appeal to untapped markets” (The Buffalo News). This emphasizes the growing importance of these stores and improved marketing techniques. I have been to these stores multiple times to find cheap Halloween costumes, but I have also donated a lot of my old clothes and toys there over the years. I am fortunate enough to have the choice to buy new things, but I know these stores are useful for people in need. These are different from the stores I saw in Edinburgh, Scotland because they advertised their specific charity for which they were raising money. Most of the signs did not say they were selling goods at cheap prices, and this was unusual to me at first. I saw Cancer Research UK and thought it was literally a place where they did cancer research. Upon further investigation I found these stores were selling goods to raise money for different foundations. There may be stores like this in the U.S., but they are not part of major city centers like they were in Edinburgh.
I found a page on Google titled “The Edinburgh Charity Shop and Reuse Map” that highlights where 112 of these thrift stores are located, how to volunteer, and other important information. This seems very useful for both people who want to get involved in the organizations as well as people who want to shop at the stores. Not many other cities have a map dedicated to charity stores, so this just shows how important it is in Edinburgh as a part of their society. It is an advantage to have the cause of the charity so readily available to the public on the storefront because then people know exactly where their money is going. More often than not when people donate money they are worried about how it is going to be used, but when it says British Heart Foundation above the door this is reassuring for the customer. It also allows people to pick and choose where they want to spend their money. If someone has been affected by cancer in one way or another they are more likely to shop at the Cancer Research UK than they are at Age Scotland. This is a good marketing strategy to allow individuals to support a cause that is meaningful to the. Putting all the different charities close together also allows more option for choice as they do not have to go far to find the one they personally want to support. Both the charity stores in the United States and Edinburgh do not have much advertising to the public other than the storefronts. This is because they just do not have the money to do so since they are non-profit organizations. People hear about them mostly by word of mouth, and in the U.S. Goodwill and Salvation Army are highly established organizations. I did not watch TV while in Scotland, but I did not see any outdoor advertisements for the charities so I am assuming it is similar to the U.S. in this regard. All of these stores rely on donations to stay up and running, while selling goods at discounted prices to people in need.
This is much different from how a for-profit business operates and therefore is interesting from a mass media standpoint. We do not tend to learn about these types of businesses because they simply do not have the resources to market and advertise their brands, while on the other hand they are the ones that need it most. They are actually raising money for a good cause and not just to form a mega company such as Primark. I cannot help but think of the BBC when talking about these charities because they both operate on the same principle to work for the public interest. BBC does not have commercials to make money but just like the stores I saw in Edinburgh, the public funds them. The charities in Scotland run on a different business model than Selfridges and Primark, but they still manage to make it work by making their store unique to a specific cause.
None of this information is earth shattering, but while I was observing these charities along the main road it made me open my mind to the other non-profit side of business. It was interesting to compare the business models of a non-profit versus a commercial store as well as non-profits in different countries. We have become such a profit driven world and as a mass media student these commercial businesses are what I learn about everyday. This trip has been full of ad agencies and people talking about money, so it was refreshing to take a step back and think about the charities that are such a big part of any city.