These Are The Unwanted Christmas Gifts Heading To A Charity Shop Near You

A flurry of unwanted Christmas gifts donated in the new year is good news for shoppers and the environment alike.
TARIK KIZILKAYA via Getty Images

It’ll come as no surprise that by mid-January, charities are inundated with donations – often unwanted Christmas gifts people decide they don’t want cluttering their homes as the ‘New Year, New You’ vibe kicks in.

Lynn Muller, head of product operations at Cancer Research UK, says while there’s a general increase in January donations overall, they tend to see more bath, body and beauty sets, and accessories like hats, scarves and gloves (potentially helpful info if you’re still doing your Christmas shopping).

A lot of the time, items still have the tags on, says Louise Harbour, regional director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF). At the start of each year, BHF witnesses a surge in items like toys and new sets of socks. The charity also receives lots of small electrical items and kitchen items, which Harbour speculates is a result of people making space for their Christmas upgrades.

Another (perhaps unsurprising) contender being relegated to charity bags come January is the humble Christmas jumper, sent in droves to local charity shops. Environmental charity Hubbub suggests that, as a nation, we’re set to buy 12 million new Christmas jumpers this year, with 65 million stashed away in wardrobes from previous years.

And, in addition to festive knits, a spokesperson for Oxfam says the charity witnesses a rise in onesies being donated post-December.

In her 16 years of working in the Salvation Army charity shop in Edinburgh, manager Maggie Hope says unwanted gifts start flooding in from as early as December, straight after the work Christmas parties. “We get all the unwanted Secret Santa gifts, mostly toiletries and accessories,” she explains.

“After Christmas it’s more of the same, but then we get all the used items that have been replaced by new ones: accessories, nightwear, slippers and Christmas jumpers.”

There have been some more memorable gifts brought in, too. Hope recalls: “A few years ago a very disgruntled young man handed in a beautiful engagement ring and the only words he said were: ‘She said NO!’” Oh dear.

So, should you still donate unwanted gifts this year?

Yes. No gifts should be going to landfill.

Just under half of adults say they’ve received gifts they don’t want and will never use, according to a survey of more than 2,000 people by Barnardo’s. But the majority of these are left gathering dust, with more than a third saying they never use them.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan is urging people to donate unwanted items “instead of holding onto gifts you’ll never use”. He adds: “Donating to our stores means somebody else can find joy in our unwanted gifts.”

On eBay, overall sales among charities in January have risen by over 50% since 2015, showing just how much the nation relies on charity shops to shift unwanted goods post-Christmas. And the charities are hugely grateful for any gifts they receive, as the money made from sales gets pumped into everything from life-saving research to helping people in poverty.

“Donating your unwanted gifts is an easy way to cut down on clutter and waste over the festive period, helping save quality items from landfill and funding vital heart research,” says Harbour, from BHF.

And Nick Smith, head of retail at Age UK, says donating presents you don’t want is “a perfect way for your gifts to keep on giving”.