The Best Vintage & Thrift Stores in Manchester, England
One of the main reasons for my trip to Manchester a couple of weekends ago (okay fine the main reason) was to finally experience their insane thrift and vintage offerings. I was in the northern England city for a day-trip last summer; but, that time was centered all around one of my other favourite weekend activities, gin-tasting. So, this time I dedicated a whole Sunday afternoon to perusing this mecca of vintage — the results of which you can see in this haul. However, just like I did for Chicago, I thought it would be useful to write a blog post detailing my favourite thrift and vintage stores in the city, so that you can bookmark this page for the next time you find yourself in Manchester with some free time and an overflowing purse.
Shops in the Northern Quarter
The Northern Quarter should be your first port of call. This area is Manchester’s creative heart, with a plethora of independent cafés, bars, record shops, and fashion stores. With the majority of shops spread along three streets, the Northern Quarter offers shoppers a network of streets where the best vintage shops in the city can be found within a few minutes walk of each other.
1) We Are Cow
Hands down my favourite vintage store in Manchester, We Are Cow is where I found the majority of my goodies during this past trip. The two floor store is brimming with incredible vintage pieces for both guys and girls. The first floor features a collection of re-worked and vintage garments, while the downstairs has everything from 90s ditsy floral dresses, 70s velvet shorts, 80s ballgowns and anything else your vintage-loving-heart could possibly desire. We Are Cow also has stores in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, and Sheffield (potential real-time thrift haul destinations??), as well as a fantastic online store.
We Are Cow, 61 Church Street, Manchester, United Kingdom +44 (0)161 834 49 26
2) Pop Boutique
Pop Boutique has a pretty legendary story in the world of vintage selling. In 1983, Richard Free decided to start a business selling vintage clothing until he found a “real” career. After two years of traveling up and down the country selling his finds, he opened his first shop in Affleck’s (see below), and then a second one in Liverpool. In 1991, he was approached by the Topshop in Oxford Circus to be the first company to sell vintage clothing in their renowned flagship shop. In 1994, the first Pop Boutique opened in Manchester (this one!) which has since been followed by stores in London, Liverpool, Leeds, and Gothenburg, Sweden. They also design their own collection of vintage-inspired pieces which are stocked all over the world and can be purchased online.
I have been to the store in Liverpool which is wonderful; but, the Manchester branch is really something else. The two-storey space is stocked with vintage pieces meticulously selected by a team of vintage lovers. Their attention to detail ensures that only the best quality and most interesting styles make their way to the rails. The Manchester branch also stocks retro furniture and vintage accessories.
Pop Boutique, 34-36 Oldham Street, Manchester, United Kingdom +44 (0)161 236 5797
3) Retro Rehab
The only store in Manchester featured on The Telegraph’s list of the best vintage boutiques in Britain, a couple of hours in Retro Rehab was at the top of my priority list. Specializing in dresses from the 1940s to the 1980s, the store is a goldmine of elegant cuts and stunning embellishments. Their pieces are sourced from all around the world, while the re-worked garments are delicately crafted to construct something exquisite. I found the most beautiful purple and green dress from Hong Kong while I was there, as well as a funky pleated knee-length skirt and a ridiculously fabulous turban. All can be seen in my haul!
Retro Rehab, 91 Oldham Street, Manchester, United Kingdom +44 (0)161 839 2050
4) Oxfam Original
I had never heard of (or been into) an Oxfam Original store before. But, the concept behind them is that they stock a more premium selection of high-street, designer and vintage garb than your local Oxfam does (which is a pretty standard thrift store). One of the joys of thrifting is that you never know what you are going (or not going) to find. I didn’t find too much that was my style in this particular store — I only came out with a vintage neck-scarf — but it is still worth popping into because it is on the smaller side and so you can easily do a quick scan. I found that at least on this day there were more unworn high-street pieces (Topshop, New Look, ASOS) than any actual designer stuff. But, everyday is different when it comes to thrifting and vintage shopping!
Oxfam Original, Unit 8, Smithfield Buildings, 51 Oldham St, Manchester, United Kingdom +44 (0)161 839 3160
This emporium of eclecticism is the ultimate Northern Quarter institution. Formerly a department store known as Affeck’s Palace from 1981 to 2008, Afflecks is home to over 70 independent indoor market stalls and attracts around 24,000 people per week! The four floors are filled with a wide variety of stalls selling clothes for men, women, and children. In addition, there are stalls selling skateboards, pipes, posters, condoms, home wares, and even a tattooist. Some of the more quirky stalls include a store with items adorned with photos of the crazy road signs around Britain, a business solely selling Viking and Celtic themed jewelry, and custom glass engraving. There is also a cereal café and a store dedicated to fudge (aka the best place in the world). Even if you don’t want to buy anything, make sure to have a wander around Afflecks, as it is a seriously unique shopping experience!
Afflecks, 52 Church Street, Manchester, United Kingdom, +44 (0)161 839 0718
Outside the Northern Quarter
6) Oxfam (Whitworth Park)
A small but very well stocked Oxfam right by the University of Manchester, this store is often brimming with students who come in regularly for their clothing and accessories. I found the most incredible ASOS sweater here, as well as a couple of other bits and bobs; so, while it may be small, it is certainly a gem. If you are by the University, or have just visited the Whitworth Art Gallery, take 30 minutes to have a browse!
Oxfam Shop (Whitworth Park), 300/302 Oxford Road, Whitworth Park, Manchester, United Kingdom, +44 (0)161 2732019
7) Thrift Shop Manchester
Thrift Shop Manchester is probably the best place on this list to grab yourself a total bargain. Here you can often get 3 items for £10, while individual items can be around £4! Unlike the ret of the stores on this list, this one has almost no organization — so definitely more geared towards serious thrifters.
Thrift Shop Manchester, Piccadilly Plaza, Manchester, M1 4AJ, United Kingdom
8) Goodstock Manchester by V-Inspired
My Couchsurfing host told me about this place and it is an absolute goldmine. I popped in there on Saturday afternoon and didn’t buy anything because I presumed I would have time to come back and didn’t want to carry my bags all around the museums. I didn’t get another chance to go back, so I am definitely going to visit Manchester again, just so I can spend some time looking around Goodstock Manchester. The store has 4 floors worth of goodies, with a massssssssive dress section that (obviously) had me googly-eyed. Goodstock Manchester is run by V-Inspired, a volunteering charity for 14-25 year olds. They help young people in England to find opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community. 100% of the sales from Goodstock go towards V-Inspired. It is a really cool, fresh take on the charity shop. You can read more about it here.
Goodstock Manchester by V-Inspired, 6A Oxford Rd, Manchester, +44 (0)161 236 3258
Happy thrifting! Let me know by leaving me a comment or tweeting me (@theblondera) where I should go vintage shopping next!