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Amazingly, this ultra fashionable family are all wearing clothes bought from a charity shop

The Marie Curie store in Dungannon has a new manager and a new look. Stephanie Bell finds out why it's such a stylish choice for bargain-hunters

No, we haven't misprinted. The prices of the high fashion featured in this glamorous photo shoot really are rock bottom.

For less than the price of tea for two in a local cafe, you could be stepping out in style sporting not just popular high street brands, but expensive designer labels.

The Marie Curie charity shop in Dungannon - which was forced to close in December for essential maintenance - marked its recent relaunch with a professional photo shoot aimed at showing people just why fashionistas are flocking to its doors.

New manager Mandy Baxter, who has spent her career working in high end fashion retail, has been on a mission to spread the word about charity shops and the bargains to be picked up by anyone with an eye for style.

According to Mandy, the days when any self-respecting follower of fashion wouldn't be seen dead flicking through the rails of a charity shop are long gone.

Now the notion that a favourite label or stand-out accessory was picked up second-hand for pennies is not only acceptable but cool among today's trendsetters.

Mandy's fashion showcase caused quite a stir in the Co Tyrone town and was made possible thanks to locals who offered their services for free.

Cameraman for the day was well-known Carlingford photographer Gavin Byrne, of Red River Studios, and make-up for the models was provided by Newry freelance make-up artist Julia Clements.

Modelling from the impressive range of fashion available in the shop were the Blair family from Dungannon - mum Alison, who owns The Cottage beauty salon, dad Ashley who runs AB Health, Diet and Fitness, and daughter Amy.

Alison felt bang on trend for this summer's Seventies-inspired look, modelling a fabulous handkerchief hem dress and strappy sandals to match - all for £18.

Meanwhile, among the outfits sported by Amy is a stunning designer dress from Hell Bunny which would cost around £100 new, but is on sale at Marie Curie for a mere £15.

Dad Ashley also looks up-to-the-minute in a pair of trendy jeans costing just £5 and a snazzy shirt at £7.

The Marie Curie shop in Dungannon has been serving the local community for 15 years and is one of 18 shops run by the charity throughout Northern Ireland.

The charity relies on income from its shop to help fund its vital palliative care services.

There are more than 120 Marie Curie nurses working in Northern Ireland, caring for around 2,000 terminally ill people and their families in their homes each year.

The Marie Curie Hospice in Belfast also cares for around 500 people each year, including people staying in the hospice and those coming in for the day to use its services.

The services are free of charge, but cost the charity around £3.5m a year to fund.

As well as picking up a bargain, shoppers have the added satisfaction of knowing their money is going towards a very good cause in their local community.

Mandy (51), who ran her own fashion boutique in Moira for many years and recently took over the managing of the shop, is amazed at the high quality of fashion donations brought in on a daily basis.

In the few months she has been with the company, Mandy has also been surprised at the many people of all ages who pop in to pick up a new addition to their wardrobe.

She says: "Gone are the days when charity shops were smelly, old, musty places that people didn't like to go into. Today they are more like a boutique on a high street.

"I think the recession had a big part to play in people changing their attitudes to shopping in charity shops.

"Many people just can't afford high end fashion and their reaction when they come into the shop is quite amazing.

"They are usually really surprised by what they find.

"Everything in the shop has been checked, cleaned and steamed, and is of good quality."

Mandy says that the shop gets its fair share of regulars popping in to see what fresh stock is on the rails, as well as new people coming in.

"The new shoppers usually come in because a friend has picked up something special and they want to see what they can get," she says.

"They are all without exception quite astonished by the quality of what is available and most people find something they are delighted with.

"Just yesterday we had a man in who was shocked to find a Ralph Lauren polo shirt on sale in a charity shop. I showed him some men's Firetrap and Superdry clothes that we also had and he was absolutely gobsmacked.

"I had another lady who came into the shop because a friend had picked up a designer piece in here.

"She said she had never gone into charity shops because she didn't think there would be anything she would buy and she left happy with a beautiful new dress."

Some of the many labels on show as Mandy relaunched included Basler, Gerry Webber, Karen Millen and Betty Barclay among others.

She also sold a Basler top for a steal at £6 - normal retail price would be around £80.

Mandy adds: "The lady who bought the top said she could never afford to buy Basler.

"And this week a girl came in with two pair of brand spanking new Roberto Cavalli jeans with the labels still on them and they would have retailed at £190 a pair.

"We've lots of high street clothing too, and its all ages, young and old, men and women who are picking up clothes in the shop.

"It is really lovely to see peoples' faces lighting up when they find something they love and then check the price and know they have got a real bargain."

With its sophisticated window mannequin display, you could easily mistake Marie Curie in Dungannon for a high street fashion boutique rather than a traditional charity shop. A good selection of bric-a-brac is also on display inside where essential fashion accessories such as handbag, scarves and jewellery are all on show.

It was obvious by the sheer numbers who visited the shop on its relaunch on March 20 just how much it was missed by locals during its closure.

In fact, it has been so busy ever since that Mandy is desperately seeking volunteers to offer a few hours each week to help out.

She says: "It has been crazy, we have been so, so busy.

"We really do need volunteers and I would be really grateful to anyone who could give some time each week to help out."

To maintain its reputation for offering good-quality stock, Mandy naturally relies on donations to keep the shop going.

She says the shop can never have too much stock and again appealed to people to consider the charity when having a clear-out of their wardrobes or any household goods.

"If anyone has clothes they no longer wear - and most of us do - or anything in their home that doesn't fit anymore, I would urge them to consider dropping them off at their nearest Marie Curie shop," she says.

"Our customers love the fact that when they buy something in our shop, they are also supporting a great cause - £20 can pay for one Marie Curie nurse for an hour.

"Any help is gratefully received."

Providing vital support and care ...

  • Around 70% of Marie Curie's income comes from donations including its charity shops with the balance of funds coming from NHS contracts
  • The Great Daffodil Appeal is the charity's biggest fundraising campaign and encourages everyone to give a donation and wear one of the charity's daffodil pins during March. The appeal has raised £80.4m since it was first launched in 1986. This money has enabled Marie Curie to provide more free hands-on care and emotional support to people with a terminal illness and their families
  • The charity is also aiming to recruit as many runners, relay teams, fun runners and walkers for the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon on Monday, May 4. It's still not too late to sign up for the event and registration will remain open until Friday, April 10
  • A helper service is also provided free of charge to people living with a terminal illness. Volunteers will visit a person with a terminal illness in their homes, offering companionship and support for up to three hours each week. Activities can include trips to the shops, walks, watching or simply spending time together. Each volunteer receives full training before being placed, and training costs £10.
  • For more information about Marie Curie and how to get involved, please visit

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