Community services are usually started by charity groups, religious organizations and other organizations with a group of people working towards social welfare. But there’s no law that says individuals cannot. So if you have a desire to help the underprivileged but don’t know how to go about it, why not start an op shop?
Also called a charity shop or a thrift shop in other countries, op shops not only cater to underprivileged people but citizens from all walks of life. They sell new or used goods at throwaway prices and the profits are donated to charity. Op shops are a big hit with environmentalists who advocate reusing products to reduce human impact on the planet. Customers averse to purchasing goods manufactured in sweat shops are also regular clients.
How to start an op shop
Like all businesses, figuring out the logistics, startup costs, furnishing and manpower must be planned to perfection. There’s also the rent and overheads to consider. Keep in mind that you’ll be bound by the same trading laws, security, health and safety rules that apply to standard businesses.
Some states require individuals to register with a charity commission if an op shop is to be set up. Those that don’t require registration may rule that people intending to conduct fundraising appeals have a license. Statutory obligations also exist. Find out what the rules are in your state before proceeding.
Op shops are exempt from Goods and Services Tax if they meet the following requirements: 1) items are sold in good condition, 2) sale of goods is performed by an endorsed charity and 3) the used goods were acquired by the op shop GST-free under the used goods provision or were donated to the op shop. As with registration, check local laws to see if you qualify for a tax exemption.
Startup costs can be high if the shop is set up in a financial district, is large or sells many goods. So start small and try to stick to a budget. Remember, you’re catering to people in need, both sellers and beneficiaries of the profits.
Choosing a mixed income area to set up shop is a good idea as you can service more people. You’ll have to make provisions for people with disabilities (ramps for wheelchairs) as well as comply with health and safety regulations.
Fittings in the form of shelves, racks, display cabinets and a cash register are necessary. They don’t have to be expensive but tasteful and able to exhibit the goods you want to market.
Security systems like CCTVs and burglar alarms are highly recommended because op shops are seen like any other retail store in the eyes of burglars.
Hire a store manager with experience unless you plan to assume the role. You’ll also need volunteers to help out. Start with two and increase the number if the shop expands. Volunteers aren’t paid salaries but you’ll have to supplement their expenses. Training is necessary to familiarize them with products, stock processing and the aims and objectives of the op shop.
The key to running a successful op shop is to treat customers, irrespective of race and social standing, with respect and courtesy. Volunteers, the store manager and other helpers must be made to understand this. It’s for charity, after all, not for profit.