Above: Dress by Tommy Hilfiger €10, Jacket by Atmosphere €5
Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw once declared “I like my money right where I can see it… hanging in my closet”. She might have thought differently if she had a Vincent’s boutique in her neighbourhood. Stuffed with designer labels (mostly still with the labels attached!), and the goodwill of its volunteers, these shops are a treat to browse in. Sheila Mullins went to check out some of the bargains in the Skibbereen branch.
If you are in the mood for some retail therapy but your purse is a little light at the moment then St Vincent de Paul’s nationwide network of ‘Vincent’s’ shops allow you do more than just mournfully gaze in windows. These wonderful shops not only sell new and nearly new clothing, shoes and accessories at very affordable prices but the profits generated are recycled into local Conferences to support those in need, providing an all round ethical, feel-good shopping experience.
A professional manager, assisted by volunteers and community employment trainees, manages each local Vincent’s shop. Skibbereen’s shop is located opposite the West Cork Hotel and is managed by local woman Maura O’Neill who is passionate about maintaining the quality of her stock.
“What many people don’t realise is that most of our stock is actually brand new, many items still have labels still on to prove it! And because we are part of a network of shops with a central distribution centre, what we have hasn’t just been donated locally but by people and businesses nationwide. Even if items aren’t brand new, all are assessed and steam cleaned to be fresh as a daisy before they go out on the floor.
“We keep a very close eye on what’s selling and what’s not and the delivery truck comes every Wednesday afternoon to bring fresh supplies and take away anything that wasn’t to our customer’s taste. We have people who pop in nearly every week to browse what’s new and snap up the bargains.”
The Skibbereen shop is bright and spacious with a large changing area. There’s no rummaging through overly packed rails; everything is sectioned – eveningwear, jackets and coats, separates, trousers, all subdivided into sizes with prices usually between €5 and €10, even for items that are unworn and would have cost 10 or 20 times that!
A quick browse reveals designer label after designer label – Tommy Hilfiger, Oska, Charlotte and Jane – and many more from well-known stores like Debenhams, The Kilkenny Shop, Vera Moda and Dorothy Perkins. The men do particularly well in the designer stakes – blazers by a host of Italian labels, shirts by Tommy Hilfiger, jumpers from Ralph Lauren, trousers by Ted Baker and casuals from RipCurl.
There is also a great selection of shoes and boots displayed on shelving around the shop, again all in fantastic condition. A pair of unworn Clarks suede court shoes for €10 and Gabor leather shoes for €7 stand out as bargains.
New babies can be dressed in the best for pennies here. Newborns often don’t get to wear outfits they get as presents before they’ve outgrown them. Many of those unworn items have kindly been donated and can be snapped up here for as little as three babygros for €2. For communion age girls there’s also a gorgeous selection of dresses for just €20.
“I love that it means all children can have the same quality of clothes,” says Maura, “no matter what their parents financial situation. But everybody loves a bargain no matter how the finances are!”
Maura’s enthusiasm for her job is obvious, “I really love it because it’s about the kindness and generosity of people and the opportunity to help others.” She credits the volunteers, Tús workers, customers and donors for the success of Skibbereen’s Vincent’s. “They’re really fantastic and we’re a dynamic team that is always coming up with new ideas. I also have a great family that regularly gets involved in projects. We are always looking for more volunteers to join the Vincent’s family if anybody has just a couple of hours to spare a week.”
Skibbereen’s Vincent’s is large enough to also sell furniture, something that’s much appreciated by people starting off in their first home. “We get furniture deliveries on Wednesday mornings,” says Maura, “and I’m always amazed at the quality. At the moment we have antique dressers, wardrobes and a selection of sofas all in perfect condition. This Mamas and Papas child’s trunk is only €40 and I just sold a bed and mattress that was in a spare room and never once slept in for only €180.”
Maura and her team have big plans for the future of this wonderful shop. The exterior is about to get a facelift and inside there will be a new kid’s area, bookstore and coffee dock so parents can browse in peace or enjoy a cuppa and a chat in a very social atmosphere. There will also be monthly events for the community such as fashion shows, style consultants, clothes sales and holiday themed events. Good quality clothes, shoes, accessories and furniture are always welcome.