Before your donated item even arrives with us it’s already been through some rigorous decision-making process. Perhaps your donation is a once-cherished item that your kids have outgrown, or a little black dress that has been worn to a few too many parties, or maybe you’ve moved in with a partner and found you’ve doubled up on furniture, books or films. Deciding what stays and what goes can be tough, but ultimately you’ve ended up with some donations that deserve a good home. The pile of pre-loved items in the boot of your car or waiting by the front door is far from the end of the story. Here’s what happens to your donations when they come to one of our charity shops.

Sorting through the pile

If you’ve ever taken a peep into the back of a charity shop you’ll probably have noticed heaps of plastic bags stuffed with anything from t-shirts to toast racks and handbags, to gladrags. Hardworking volunteers power through this new stock to divide them into 3 main sections:

  • Items for the donor shop
  • Items for our specialist shops
  • Items that can be immediately recycled

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Items for our donor shop

Don’t be put off donating by worrying that an item is not ‘good enough’ for one of our charity shops. Even if it doesn’t meet our quality criteria, it can still raise essential funds for us through recycling. We have 19 charity shops across Devon and our staff are trained at identifying what’s fit for selling and where it might sell best.

There are some rules about what we can and can’t accept however. For example, if the care label has been cut out, then even if the item is otherwise in good condition, unfortunately Government regulations mean we can’t sell it on. In this case we will sell the item as textile to be recycled.

All other donations will be sorted into type: clothing, bric-a-brac, etc. and organised for sale either within the donor shop, or at one of our specialist shops.

Volunteers at our Tavistock shop

Items for our specialist shops

We have two vintage and variety shops: one in Topsham and one in Dartmouth. Our staff and volunteers will direct the more unusual items, vintage crockery and ornaments, retro clothing and antiques to these specialist stores where they are more likely to be sought after by customers interested in browsing and shopping for rarer items.

We also have a furniture and electrical store in Exeter. Have a look at the items we can and can’t accept as we only sell items that meet rigorous safety standards. If your item is bulky and meets safety standards, we can arrange for our delivery van/volunteers to pick your item up from you to take to our Exeter store. We can also deliver items to you from our shop for a small fee. 

One of the donations that made its way to our Dartmouth vintage shop

Items that can immediately be recycled

It’s not possible to sell on every donation we receive, but in this situation we can still raise funds for the charity. We recycle textiles, shoes, books, media, bric-a-brac and other accessories and sell them on by the kilo to ARB, a recycling company that works with the charity sector. Some of the other perhaps more surprising items we recycle include:

  • Stamps
  • Coins
  • Scrap metal
  • Mobile Phones

If we receive a set of saucepans that have rusted and are unusable, then our logistics officer will take these to a skip in our warehouse to be recycled so that they avoid landfill.

What happens to stock that isn't sold?

Our donors choose to give Devon Air Ambulance their items in the hopes of raising money for the charity, therefore we want to give their donations every possible chance of becoming someone else’s perfect purchase. Here’s the process an item goes through:

  • Our donor shop receives the item
  • The item is checked for quality
  • The brand is checked against our price guide to ensure the item is fairly and consistently priced
  • Items are steamed, tagged and dated
  • Items that are gift aided have a number attached to the tag
  • They then hit the sales floor
  • Each item has a 4-week turnaround

What happens if that item isn't sold within 4 weeks?

Unsold items come off the shop floor if they have not sold within 4 weeks

Textiles are bagged and sent forwards to a ‘sister’ shop where they are steamed again and re-hung.

If the item doesn’t sell after a further 4 weeks then it will go to our shop in Exmouth where they will sell for either £3, £2 or £1 each. Our 3, 2, 1 shop also sells toys, books, pictures, music, games and DVDs.

What happens to items sold to the recycling company?

If an item doesn’t sell in our Exmouth shop then it will go to ARB who will pay for recyclables by the kilo. The recycling company will take unsold stock by the container load abroad to third-world countries where it will be sold in street markets.

Why it's a good idea to donate items to Devon Air Ambulance

We work hard to extend the life of a pre-loved item as far as possible and not only do we care about raising funds for the charity in doing so, but we also want to minimise the environmental impact of donated goods. Charity shops play a huge part in keeping items out of landfill and increasing the chances of finding a buyer for them instead.

Our charity shops are a significant source of income for the charity, not only that but they play an important role in being the charity representative within the very Devon communities we serve. But we would not be able to have such success with our shops without the support of our incredible volunteers who work hard to ensure the lifespan of each item is maximised.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a volunteer in one of our shops, then do complete our volunteers form and a member of our team will get back to you. Not sure you’re ready to volunteer? Read more about what’s involved and the very positive difference volunteering can make not only to the charity, but also to your life.