Ipswich’s Airbnb experience is a real bargain

Elene Marsden, charity shopping on a trip to Cambridge

Elene Marsden, charity shopping on a trip to Cambridge - Credit: Archant

Opinions are divided over charity shops. We all like to donate our unwanted clothes, books and knick-knacks to help our favourite charities raise funds. But are there just too many of them?

Charity shops in Ipswich

Charity shops in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Ipswich has a rich history, it is a maritime town with many beautiful listed buildings, and medieval churches plus a plethora of shops and restaurants.

They all attract visitors.

But Ipswich Community Radio presenter Elene Marsden has discovered another, unexpected tourist attraction - the range of charity shops on the town’s streets.

As a mum of three sons she is used to visiting charity shops to hunt out bargains, and now she is helping others seek out pre-loved gems by acting as a `tour guide’ for visitors to Ipswich through Airbnb experiences.

Personal shopper Elene Marsden and visitor Katherine, with a charity shop designer top which origina

Personal shopper Elene Marsden and visitor Katherine, with a charity shop designer top which originally retailed at £500 - Credit: Archant


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“I am offering shopping experiences, with a difference,” she said.

Elene is a stylish 61 year old, who always looks her best. When I met her for coffee she was dressed, head-to-toe in pre-owned (though you wouldn’t know it).

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Most of her outfit came from charity shops, and her trousers were given by a friend’s daughter.

“I’ve always been known as pre-owned chica. I used to go to jumble sales when I lived in Wales. My favourite charity shop locally is the St Elizabeth Hospice shop in Hadleigh,” she added.

Charity shops in Ipswich

Charity shops in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Elene has already had three bookings for her Airbnb experience,

“One lady came down by train from London, and I helped her to find clothes from the charity shops. We found her a lot of clothes, long skirts and blouses. She was really delighted.

“One top turned out to be a designer top - worth £500.

“The other day I took three sisters out. It was a 21st birthday treat for one who was at university in London. They came to Ipswich for the airbnb experience.”

As well as bringing tourists to Suffolk, Elene says she is helping the environment by encouraging people to make us of clothes that still have plenty of life in them.

“And when they are worn out they can still be recycled as rags.”

And her own favourite piece?

“One of my favourites is a dress I bought for £2.50 in Ipswich. It was a long black Next dress with beads and lace. I wore it for a posh wedding in Azerbaijan and it looked great.

“Other people had probably spent thousands.”

• Elene hosts a Wednesday lunchtime show on ICR where she chats with guests, and features four pieces of their favourite music.

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