Katoomba’s Boom in Secondhand Shops

The new Salvos op shop in Katoomba, Blue Mountains

Secondhand clothing in the ‘O’ range at Salvos – funkier, original and big brand labels for shoppers on the hunt for their own unique style.

Story and photos by Linda Moon

Katoomba Street’s famous profile of eateries, quirky shops, cold-climate street plantings and cockatoos is ever changing. And the latest transformation favours the circular economy.

Key Points:

  • Secondhand shops are booming in Katoomba and helping drive the circular economy.
  • Katoomba has 20 different options for secondhand, thrift, vintage and antique shopping. 
  • Young people, environmental awareness and tougher economic times are helping fuel the trend. 
  • See our guide to all 20 Katoomba Op Shops, Antique & Secondhand Stores here >

In October, observant locals will have noticed that two popular op shops (Anglicare and the Salvos) have relocated into prime positions within the tourist town’s main street.

Cayte Moxom, area manager for the Salvation Army (Central West), says the relocation of Salvos (previously in Waratah Street) is about being bigger and more accessible to the public. The move also involves a transition of the store from family/church run to an arm of the Salvation Army.

Doors officially opened on Wednesday 25th October.

A few doors down, the Anglicare Op Shop is also benefitting from a new location. The busy 195 Katoomba Street store recently relocated to expand into a bigger space. It’s a sure sign the secondhand economy is thriving.

The new Anglicare op shop in Katoomba

The new Anglicare Op Shop. Bigger and better with more floor, rack and shelf space and room to move.

Thriving Centre for Retro

Katoomba now offers 20 different options for secondhand shopping. Featuring something for different budgets and tastes, these include charity-based op shops, vintage options, antique centres and the free reuse shed at the Katoomba Resource Recovery and Waste Management Facility.

See our guide to all 20 Katoomba Op Shops, Vintage & Antique Stores >

“Although we’re competitors,” Moxom says, “the more charities you have, the more choice.”

The growing trade in vintage and secondhand is further establishing the town as a thriving centre for retro and originality.

New Salvos Op Shop in Katoomba

Boom time for Op Shops. The new Salvos Op Shop in Katoomba Street, one of 20 secondhand shops in Katoomba.

Boom time for op shops

Moxom says the secondhand sector is growing in Katoomba and elsewhere. She attributes it to harder economic times and affordability factors plus greater interest in sustainability and avoiding fast fashion.

People are more interested in considering the environment and planet in their purchases, and doing good in their local community. We’re in a national park, we have the Planetary Health Initiative and a community committed to caring about the environment. – Cayte Moxom

The global market for secondhand apparel is predicted to almost double by 2027 (to $350 billion) according to a report by Thredup. In fact, it’s predicted to grow three times faster than that for new fashion. Which is great for the environment!

Synthetic textiles have become a big environmental problem, Moxom says. Petroleum-based fabrics, like acrylics, elastine, polyester and lycra, don’t break down. Thus, recyling and re-using fashion can help. 

Amy James modelling op shop clothes in Katoomba

Katoomba local, 19-year-old Amy James, modelling clothing she purchased from Katoomba op shops.

Secondhand hits the mainstream

While once we may have felt shame in shopping at op shops, secondhand shopping is mainstream now, Moxom says. “The idea that people who shop in op shops can’t afford it is no longer true. Also, young people want a point of difference and don’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing.”

A study published by The Conversation found second-hand shopping associated more with style-consciousness than either frugality or environmental awareness.

Blue Mountains Op Shops clothing

Local outdoor guide, Amy James, in upcycled summer top she hand made from op shop ware.

Youth embracing secondhand

19-year-old Katoomba local, Amy James, is one of many young people who see worth in buying ‘pre-loved’ goods. About half her wardrobe is secondhand.

It’s cheaper; it’s better for the environment, it’s fun, a bit of a treasure hunt. You never know what you’ll find. It’s also inspiring thinking what you can make from it. – Amy James

Upcycled mirror and chalk bags

Mirror, lanterns and chalk bag made by Amy James from trash and treasure purchased in op shops.

The joy of upcycling

Amy, who works as an outdoor guide, upcycles finds from secondhand and op shops into unique clothing and household decor items. She recently refashioned an old mirror using mosaic materials she made from smashed teapot saucers and cups, bits of stained glass and tiles found in secondhand shops. She also handcrafts table runners, pillowcases, mosaics, lanterns and belts (the latter are made from old ties).

Making her own chalk bag (used in the climbing industry) has saved her heaps. The chalk bags typically retail from between $20 to $70, she says. The creative climber made her own using recycled fabric and a friendship bracelet.

Amy plans to start a market stall and promote her unique, handcrafted items on Instagram at theclumsypenguinau.

upcycled lantern

Lovely hanging lantern made by Amy James using recycled jars from op shops.

Cancer Wellness Op Shop a recycling hero

Amy’s personal favourite for fossicking is the Cancer Wellness Op Shop in North Katoomba. “It has heaps of stuff,” she says.

A popular locals haunt, the op shop also won a coveted expert accreditation for “clothing reuse” from Charitable Recycling Australia (in 2023). The charity recycles a remarkable 95 per cent of all the goods it receives. It also donates unsaleable goods overseas.

Like other charitable thrift shops, most funds go towards local charities and thus feed back into the community.

Cancer wellness op shop in Katoomba

Cancer Wellness Op Shop, Katoomba – a Blue Mountains favourite for secondhand shopping.

Take Action:

  • Go op-shopping in Katoomba instead of buying new. See our full guide to all the stores here >
  • Recycle old clothes that can’t be donated through BMCC’s Clothing and Textile Recycling Program
  • Get together with friends to hold a clothes swap party to freshen up your wardrobe!

Share this article:

This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.

Planetary Health Initiative partners

More from around the region

In April 2021 Blue Mountains City Council became the first Council and government entity in Australia to commit to integrating Rights of Nature (RON) principles into its operations and practices. Yesterday we were thrilled to be able to spend a few hours with Susie Talbot, an Australian lawyer, based in the UK, who was visiting on a Churchill Fellowship to explore the implementation of Rights of Nature in different parts of the world. It was inspiring to hear how she has spent decades using the law to achieve transformative change in relation to complex socio-economic and environmental challenges. In 2020, she founded the Anima Mundi Law Initiative to strengthen the intersections between human rights and ecology, and to encourage the practice of law in alignment with planetary realities and collective consciousness. Projects include the creation of a ‘Rights of Nature Toolkit’ and we look forward to working with her into the future. You can read more at her website: https://www.animamundilaw.org/
Photo: Susie Talbot standing in front of Scott Marr`s artwork in the Planetary Health Exhibition space.

#rightsofnature #earthjurisprudence #anewlegalstoryforanecologicalage #ecologicalage #churchillfellowship @churchillfellowship #animamundi #humanrights #ecology #planetaryhealth

Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”; and William Butler Yeats, the great poet, said “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” If you’re a teacher, educator or involved in education in some way in the Blue Mountains the staff of the Blue Mountains Planetary Health Initiative would love to meet you next Monday 20th May when we join the Blue Mountains Sustainable Schools Network to see how we can all join forces to urgently accelerate the change we need to restore the health of our planet. 3.30-5.30 at Faulconbridge Public School. RSVP Beth Healy DirtMum (details in poster)

#sustainableschoolsnetwork #collaboration #planetaryhealth #environmentaleducators #artteachers #englishteachers #musicteachers #allteachers

Our Planetary Health newsletter is now out, sharing inspiring stories from the Lower Mountains to Lithgow: Read it here and subscribe via any of the Local News sites: https://bit.ly/3QKevs6 (link in profile)

Katoomba Area Local News: Living on the Ledge: Saving the Dwarf Mountain Pine

Lithgow Local News: How a Tolkien Fantasy Turned Into Off-grid Reality at Middle-Earth in the Kanimbla Valley

Blackheath Area Local News: Inspirational, Intergenerational Play in Blackheath

Lower Mountains Local News: The Positive Social Impact of the Glenbrook Country Women’s Association

Mid Mountains Local News: Stronger Together: Mid Mountains Neighbourhood Centre Walks the Talk

Springwood Area Local News: People Of Binfluence: The 2024 Binfluencer Awards

#solutionsmedia #hyperlocalnews #planetaryhealth #localstories #inspiration #bluemountains #lithgow

Woohoo we just hit 1 MILLION views on our reel about Physicist Hans Coster and why he`s using nickel-iron batteries.
You can now read the full story and watch a video about him and his wife Tillie at their property Middle Earth (links in profile). We`d love you to subscribe to our Blue Mountains Planetary Health YouTube channel and share the latest video on him there as well.
The video is fabulous:
#offgrid #underground #nickelironbatteries #planetaryhealth #reforestation #selfsufficient #middleearth #bagshotrow

A small group of Blue Mountains women is helping local women survive and thrive and also contributing to improve maternal and newborn survival in developing countries. Assembling birthing kits for women in remote locations is just one of the many ways the @zontaclubbluemountains is empowering and supporting women, both abroad and at home. Read more in Lower Mountains Local News (link in profile)

#womensupportingwomen #maternalhealth #birthingkits #zontainternational #zonta #abetterworldforwomen #localaction #localactionglobalimpact #planetaryhealth

We are thrilled to announce that award-winning health writer and author Sophie Cousins will be leading the workshop: Our Community, Our Stories: Writing for Change from 2-5pm on Saturday 25 May at the Planetary Health Precinct. Sophie`s work has been published in the New York Times, London Review of Books, the Guardian, the Lancet, Meanjin and others. She also works as a public health consultant for the World Health Organisation. The workshop will be followed at 7pm by the launch of the Planetary Health Writers Network. Places are limited so bookings essential (link in profile): https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/our-community-our-stories-writing-for-change-tickets-895548458547

#writingforchange #impactfulstories #solutionsjournalism #writingworkshop #planetaryhealth #changethestory #thenewsweneed #writersnetwork #bluemountains #katoomba

We`re thrilled to welcome Tamsyn McGrouther to our growing team of volunteer storytellers. She`s reporting on how the Springwood Lot Party transformed an underused space, the car park at Springwood Train Station, into a vibrant community space with food stalls, art opportunities and live music. Read more in Springwood Area Local News (link in profile) : https://springwoodlocalnews.com/springwood-lot-party-2024/
#changethestory #hyperlocalmedia #solutionsmedia #springwood #inspiringstories #planetaryhealth #bluemountains #localnewsmatters

Mushrooms are a hot topic at the moment with more and more research illuminating the essential role these organisms play in the health of the planet as well as the significant health and medicinal benefits they hold for humans. Belle Butler visited local mushroom grower, Alex Felix, at his farm in Lawson to talk about the mighty mushroom. Read more in Mid Mountains Local News (link in profile)

#mushroomgrowkit #mushrooms #fungi #growyourown #lawson #bluemountains

About Linda Moon

Linda Moon has lived in the upper Blue Mountains since childhood and is a freelance writer for Australian media. A qualified naturopath, permaculture designer, mother and former student of social work, her passion is building local community, gardening, mental, emotional, social, housing and environmental health – all of which are linked!

You might also like:

eco gardening in the blue mountains

Kind And Eco-Friendly Pest Control

Do you baulk at killing garden pests? Chris McDonald, Principal Gardener at the Brahma Kumaris Retreat Centre, Leura, shares tips for keeping the pests at bay without killing anything, harming the environment or ourselves.


Enjoyed this article? Please help spread the word :)