How An Aberdeenshire Mum Turned Piles Of Clothes Into A Successful Swap-Shop From Her Garage

An Aberdeenshire mum-of-two has been left amazed by the demand for her clothes swapping business after coming up with an idea to make better use of pre-loved and unwanted items during lockdown.

Katie Wade, 35, was stuck with piles of her children’s clothes that no longer fitted during the pandemic and decided to tackle the issue on a larger scale.

Since creating the Wee One’s Wardrobe business, Katie has helped hundreds of families swap their children’s old clothes to ensure they are reused.

Her swap shop, which she runs out of her Balmedie home, has gone from being a small group of pals switching their kids’ outfits to a garage full of 3,000 children’s items, ranging from newborn clothing to pieces for up to age six.

Katie told Aberdeen Live: “It started in lockdown when I had my daughter, I already have a son so we had mountains of clothes and as you can imagine we have everything twice.

“I was keeping everything, I don’t know why. You just feel like holding onto these things, and I just thought ‘this is ridiculous’. We don’t have space for it, some of it hasn’t been worn and has tags on it, everything’s stuck in the wardrobe and I thought this was silly.

“So I actually spoke to my antenatal group and said ‘look, we’re all having our second baby, why don’t we swap?’ And a few of them thought that’s a good idea.

“We did some swapping and I thought, ‘I think this my work on a bit of a bigger scale’. I was in Bridge of Don at that point so I just did it locally with a Facebook page and said if anyone’s interested in swapping, let me know.

“A lot of people wanted to swap which was fantastic and it just grew from there really. That was just a page with a couple of pictures and people would comment saying they want it, I’d swap them something and give them the thing that they chose.”

Katie decided to have a website built after seeing her Facebook page grow in demand, adding: “Last May I employed someone to make a website for me because we got messages across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire saying ‘do you ship’, and I said not really because it was just a local thing.

“There were people down in Devon messaging me so I thought I’d try it so we got a website I couldn’t even have imagined, as I’m not overly technical, and it was amazing.

“I sent it out to my customers I already had and still had my Facebook page, and now we’ve got over 300 active swapping families, over 3,000 items listed on the website, and I swap newborn clothes to age six, and there’s already a pile with bigger than six.

“It just became really, really busy which was so good. Obviously there’s a lot of people watching their pennies because of the situation we’re in just now, people like being sustainable because it doesn’t make sense throwing clothes away and it just works!

“People are a lot more open minded to pre-loved now, because before people seemed to have a thing with charity shop clothes but it’s not like that anymore. They’re loving pre-worn and seeing it as actually quite trendy.

“By doing the pre-loved thing a lot of people were really interested. If you’ve got outgrown clothes you keep them for other children, if not then they go in the bin. Swapping is the best option.”

Despite the stress of 3,000 clothes being handed in and spending hours washing and sorting clothing or boxing up orders, Katie is finding a sense of satisfaction in seeing her business help prevent good clothes from going to waste.

She added: “I absolutely love it, and I love meeting the mums. It’s nice to see what clothes they bring, and before I give anything out I put a stamp on the label and sometimes you see them coming back, and you absolutely love that.

“I’ll see items come back and know my daughter’s worn it, and then it’s going back out again so I have seen a journey of three families using this one piece and it’s still perfect.

“That could have just gone and never got use again and so many people have got use out of one bit of clothing and I remember seeing a snowsuit come back.

“You wear it a couple of weeks of the year or when it snows and then that’s it, and they’re good quality and to see it come back and know people are making use of it is the reason why I’m doing this.

“It does take a long time to photograph everything, and wash and sort everything, but the feeling that someone’s getting use of it again, I’m just chuffed.”

Having amassed pile after pile of clothes at a rapid pace, it was time for an upgrade. Katie explained how the business works for those looking to try it out.

She said: “We moved from Bridge of Don in May, and one of the tick boxes was a double garage which my partner converted half of into a huge wardrobe for me, so that’s finished and everything hangs up or is boxed and crated so I can find everything.

“We do have a huge collection, but he’s fantastic with it. Before he was like ‘oh my god you’re taking over my house’ now it’s all sort of contained, and half of the garage is for me and it’s made things a lot easier.

“It’s allowed me to grow to 3,000 items whereas before it was just a couple of hundred that were mine, and the more people that use it means there’s more choice for people.

“We’ve had some really good quality items, I’ve never had anything bad from anybody, and once you make an account, say you trade in 15 items you get the same number of swaps on your account.

“They’ll get an email saying all their stuff has been checked and they get their swaps, and they can head onto the website and choose what they want.

“All they pay is just a small fee for things like washing equipment, and it comes up online how much they owe. Once it’s ready they come and collect the little parcels I make up or I ship it out to them, and that is the circle.

“They can swap everything, gender to gender, different sizes, whatever, there is everything. There’s no rules to it. If you give me 15, you get your 15 back in what you need.”

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