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Op-shopping in Melbourne: The advantages and opportunities it can present to overseas students

LIVING on a budget but still feel like shopping around Melbourne? Trinity College Foundation Studies students Ing Yow, Nicole Cheung and Sam Hu talk about the joys of op-shopping and why international students can benefit from its thrifty low prices.

Photo: Sam Hu

Photo: Sam Hu

Students love a good bargain but they can be hard to come by, especially in a city like Melbourne where the cost of living can be quite high.

But for international students who come to Melbourne for the first time, knowing where to get cheap items outside of your big name department stores is a whole different battle altogether.

Many Melburnians are already be familiar with the concept of op-shopping but for some overseas students, it may seem odd to want to buy pre-loved items. Second-hand stores do exist for students back home but many operate as a business and less as a charity.

In Melbourne, op-shopping presents one of two opportunities: students can buy cheap items to furnish their home while knowing that they are contributing to a charitable cause.

Photo: Sam Hu

Photo: Sam Hu

Sharmine, manager of Hunter Gatherer — one of the biggest op-shops in Melbourne, located in the Royal Arcade and run by the Brotherhood of St Laurence — has seen many customers over the years and in her experience, she says that op-shops like Hunter Gatherer champion themselves as recyclable and environmentally friendly locales where most customers can get what they need in a very low price.

Jacky, a customer from China said “you can find a lot of vintage items [at op-shops], such as CDs and books” and also attests to the low prices found in op-shop stores. Moreover, the prices are really cheap.”

Related story: How thrift shopping can benefit an international students lifestyle

To put these cheap prices to the test, we compared the prices of items from op-shops to those found in big brand department stores.

For a single branded wine glass at a department store, new items can go as high as $69.95. At an op-shop? Simply $1.00. Furthermore, you can get a normal cup for only $0.50 at an op-shop instead of spending $9.95 to get a similar cup at department store.

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Photo: Ing Yow & Nicole Cheung

Other unique items can also be found at op-shops; rare finds that you mightn’t otherwise find at your normal shops.

Local customer Candy said,  “I can find a lot of rare things [at an] op-shop. For example, I managed to find my wok cover here after I broke it”. For young people, she also suggested they visit to buy clothes here and redesign it.

While cheap items are certainly advantageous in the lives of internationals students, it’s also worth remembering that each purchase at a charitable op-shop will give money to those who need it.

‘The revenues we gained from here are all used to run charity programs. We support elderly homes by using the money we [have] earned”, Sharmine said.

Photo: Sam Hu

Photo: Sam Hu

Sharmine also encouraged international students to donate their clothes to op-shops so that they too can also have a part in saving the planet by reducing landfill.

So the next time you have something that you need to throw out and want to replace with something pre-owned, why not consider getting a bargain and simultaneously donating to some great causes by shopping at an op-shop?

This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via meld@meldmagazine.com.au.

1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. I’m Chinese, op shop is good to me and I fell in love with op shops shortly after I arrived in Australia, believe or not. but many Chinese folks that I know don’t seem to embrace the idea of wearing something previously worn by someone else. I guess wearing new clothes straight from retail shops most of the time is how get their clothes back home in china (hand-me-downs from siblings or cousins within a family is an exception sometimes), plus it is not very expensive to buy clothes in china because there are so many places to buy and you can always haggle prices in many places – naturally, people would think “why bother buy old clothes?”. Anyway, there could be many reasons (some may be related to the culture), but it is interesting to see a growing understanding among Chinese shoppers toward op shop items especially with the special meaning about charitable cause being attached to it.

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

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