Last summer, I discovered a second hand shop of dreams in Budapest. It sold British brands at low prices. Naively, I thought this was a one off but all over Poland, you’ll notice second hand shops bearing the sign, ‘Tania Odziez’. Literally meaning cheap clothes, these shops are big business in Poland. As a believer in buying things second hand, you can see why I was curious to find out what Krakow’s shops had to offer. 

Stepping through the door of one of the many shops on Jozefa in Kazimierz, John headed off to look for retro football shirts, and I expected his return within minutes. Struck by the rails and rails of clothing, it was clear John wouldn’t be returning any time soon! I headed for the dress rail first (naturally) and what did I find? Many, many dresses, all in varying conditions. A beautiful monochrome vintage dress with a gorgeous white collar sat nestled next to a Primark knitted jumper dress. The rail was cluttered with many budget British brands like Dorothy Perkins, George and F&F. Still, that didn’t deter me. I’ll always look for the diamond among the tatters. 

With prices written informally on pieces of neon paper, and of course, in Polish, it’s hard to work out exactly what an item costs. It’s not just the language barrier that can make it difficult. Prices can significantly vary depending on what day of the week you shop. Monday is notoriously more expensive as it’s the day the stock comes in, whilst Saturday is apparently the cheapest day of the week. We visited on a Monday and, using Google Translate, we discovered dresses were priced at 24 Zloty which is around £4. 

You might think that isn’t expensive, I certainly don’t for second hand clothing that is in nearly new condition…but the clothing I saw, was clearly pre-loved. Bobbles, tears and faded dresses all mingled together. It was because of this that I decided against the silver glittery Zara boots I’d made a beeline for and also returned the vintage dress to the rail when I spotted a huge tear. Whilst shopping, a thought struck me. Is this where our cast-offs go when we sell them to private companies? 

So, on our return, I decided to look into it. According to the United Nations Comrade Database, Poland sells the most clothing imported from the UK each year. $74 million worth to be precise. And it’s not just the clothes we choose to sell on. Brace yourself. Reportedly, our charity shop donations can also end up sold to wholesalers who then sell our goods to retailers. 

The burning question I left asking is, why is cheap clothing big business in Poland? Reading forums, as well as articles, seem to suggest that the lack of limited discount retailers forces shoppers turn to used clothing. In the UK, we have a plethora of discount clothing shops and even on a strict budget, shops like Primark can help us afford the basics.

Whilst, I didn’t buy anything this time. If we return to Poland, I’d happily spend a day rummaging in their second hand stores. However, there’s one question I’m still wrangling with in my head…
When you take out the element of charity, does this make thrifting less appealing?
  • Hmm…I guess if the charity donations are being sold on they're still making money for the charity – presumably some of them get far more clothing than they could ever have space for on the shop floor. Also buying from car boot sales or vintage shops wouldn't be profiting charity but still utilising second-hand clothing, so I think it could be justified. It's interesting finding out what other countries do with their donations, thanks for that! Can't believe you came home empty handed, although changing the prices depending on the days does seem like an odd way to do things… 🙂

  • I think a lot of what the charity shops in the UK sell on is the stuff that people in the UK wouldn't find acceptable, things that are too worn, things with pulls or tears. I think we would also think twice about things that have gone bobbly. So they are still making money from your donations, just in a different way.

  • Oh wow, this is actually very interesting. Who would have thought that thrifting is big business in Poland? It's a shame that you didn't pick anything out though 🙁

    Hope you're doing well! I love seeing all of your Instagram updates — your photos are absolutely gorgeous!

    A Northern Light

  • This is v interesting. They also had a shop like this where I lived in Bali. I wondered if stuff came from the UK in there. I guess, I.hope that charities are making money still but it might be those 'sell clothing by the kilo' companies too-we have lots of those in Essex.x

  • Oh god – I really don't know about this! I didn't think it was necessarily the charity aspect that appealed to me – I just love getting things not everyone else has and for bargain prices because I'm so tight with money! Thinking about it though, I never have the same excitement when faced with a discount shop full of similar things…

    I always thought charity shop rag was sold on but didn't think Poland would be a destination for it…x