Check out Cromer’s first clothing swap shop

As part of the newspaper’s Your Money Matters campaign, journalist Daniel Hickey visited a unique clothing store that helps people save instead of spend.

This is a store where you don’t need to spend money. New-U, a women’s clothing swap shop on Brook Street in Cromer, opened in late January

Customers redeem clothing donations for points which can then be spent in the store. It’s an idea that seems tailor-made for these economically worrying times, when households across the UK are faced with rising energy prices, soaring grocery bills and the level of highest inflation in a decade.

Sue Buffin, 56, founder and chief executive of New-U, said: “People have less and less money now. What draws customers to the store is the non-spending and that is the environmental aspect.”


Former Cromer Mayor Mike Bossingham opens New U in January 2022.
– Credit: New-U

Customers can bring in up to 10 good quality, clean, and undamaged garments each day and then redeem those garments for points that can be spent in the store.

The shop is also selling some items to ensure it can stay open

Ms Buffin said: “You don’t need money to buy clothes from this store. As long as you have something to trade, which is in good condition, you can get clothes here.

“It’s for people on a budget. Everyone has something in their wardrobe that they may never wear again. If you have things in your wardrobe that you don’t wear anymore, you can bring them here.”

Ms Buffin said the store also helps keep clothes “in circulation” to reduce the carbon footprint.

“There are so many good clothes being brought in,” she said. “There’s such an excess of clothing that already has a huge environmental footprint. It makes sense to keep it in circulation.”


New U Cromer

A sign in the New U in Cromer explains how the exchange shop works.
– Credit: Daniel Hickey

The New-U charity was created in 2018.

Ms Buffin had worked for the health service for 20 years and then at the Prince’s Trust, where she ran an employability program called Talent Match.

As part of this work, she set up a clothing loan program for people looking for outfits for interviews and formal occasions.

“We quickly realized we could do so much more and have a swap shop,” Ms Buffin said.

When the project ended, she left the Prince’s Trust and set up the New-U charity, opening a swap shop in Castle Mall in Norwich in 2018.


New U Cromer

Sue Buffin, CEO, Christine Robinson, and Sean Cowie, Assistant Manager, outside New U, a women’s clothing swap shop in Cromer.
– Credit: Daniel Hickey

Sean Cowie, 40, has been assistant manager of the Cromer store since just after it opened.

He said: “I thought it would take months for the redemption and points system to pick up steam, but in a matter of weeks we’ve had so much success with the donations coming in and the customers coming in. regularly.

“We’ve had more people buying items with points rather than cash.

“It was a brilliant success,” he added.

Mr Cowie, who has worked in charity shops before, said: ‘I’ve had so many donors in other shops who have a really nice dress or a pair of shoes, but because you’ve paid so much money for it, they don’t want to part with it for nothing, even if they don’t wear it.

“With us, with the point system, the giver doesn’t get money back, but they get something, and people are more willing to part with those things.”


Clare Francis, project manager, and on the right Sue Buffin, founder and CEO of New-U.

Behind the counter on the left is Clare Francis, project manager, and on the right Sue Buffin, founder and CEO of New-U.
– Credit: New-U

Currently, the most popular items from the Cromer branch are dresses. As June approaches, they hope to receive more summer clothing donations.

Ms Buffin said on average an M&S dress would score six to eight points.

A point is worth about 50p. A donor can get the equivalent of £4 for a dress while buying one is around £7.

Jeans, top, jacket and shoes cost around 40 points.


The North Norfolk News has launched a Your Money Matters campaign.

The North Norfolk News has launched a Your Money Matters campaign.
– Credit: Archant

The shop also hosts rag workshops, led by Christine Robinson, 68.

Rugs are made from pieces of fabric cut from clothing that has been donated but is unsuitable or not good enough for display.

At both sites, they have 30 volunteers.

The store also provides job placement opportunities for long-term unemployed youth with low-level mental health issues, disabilities and hidden disabilities.

The experience aims to help trainees gain confidence and recognize the skills they already have.

Ms Buffin said she would like to think there is a future for her charity’s business model.

“But there’s no money in the exchange, so we’re dependent on funding,” she said.

New-U is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.

Saving money on clothes: some ideas

Who? Posted a list of ways people can save money on clothes. Here are a few tips :

-Buy children’s shoes for yourself: If you’re a size five or smaller, this is a handy way to save as children’s clothing and shoes are not subject to VAT.

-Try ‘swishing’: This is exchanging clothes or shoes with others. This works especially well for children’s clothing. You could even organize a “swishing party” with friends.

-Think about quality: Value for money doesn’t always mean the cheapest option. Read online reviews of items before buying if you want to get an idea of ​​their quality.

– Haggle: If you spot an item in a store that you would like but it has a defect, you may be able to haggle the price. Just ask, what have you got to lose? Missing buttons can be sewn on and most stains can be removed.

Our campaign: helping you get through

The North Norfolk News has launched a Your Money Matters campaign to tackle the rising cost of living.

Our journalists will be committed to telling your stories, sharing both your struggles and your successes.

We want to do more for our readers than just point out price increases. We need to help find solutions, ways to make things easier and areas where we can fight so that people can enjoy a better quality of life.

If you run a shop or business in North Norfolk and have a special offer to promote aimed at easing the burden of the rising cost of living, contact our reporters Stuart Anderson at [email protected] or Daniel Hickey at [email protected]

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