The Harrods of charity shops...and it's right here in Halifax!

THERE will be plenty of pomp and ceremony when Halifax's latest department store opens tomorrow.

Crowds are expected to gather long before the doors open. Not just to catch a glimpse of actor and singer Craig Chalmers, who plays the lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream-coat at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, and is doing the honours, but to bag a bargain.

The new mini department store in the former Queen's Hall dance hall in Queen's Road, Halifax, does not bear a high-street name but is owned by a charity. And the majority of what is on sale is second-hand.

But this isn't your average charity shop. In fact, some have already tagged it the Harrods of the charity world.

The store is the brainchild of Halifax branch of the RSPCA, the national charity devoted to protecting animals. It is the biggest charity shop in the area and possibly the only charity department store in the country.

As well as selling clothing, jewellery and accessories for all ages, it has a furniture hall and a bridal and eveningwear room.

So far, the store has three separate areas but there is scope to expand and it may soon stock fancy dress, and hen and stag party costumes.

According to RSPCA charity shop co-ordinator Diane Whitehead, interest has been amazing. Perhaps it is a sign of the times. But there is also an element of ethical shopping, as the money raised helps protect animals.

More people are recycling on eBay and at clothes swap parties, or turning to charity shops to find bargain fashion and household buys.

And the new RSPCA store is not short of stylish bargains. The wedding room contains eight new gowns given by Jennifer Hartley whose bridal shop, Just Jenna, in George Street, Halifax, closed at the end of last year. They will be sold for a fraction of their original price.

"We are over the moon with the dresses from Jennifer, they are breathtaking. And she was impressed with our new superstore. It's a wonderful building with a lot of history. We are fortunate to have it," says Diane.

The charity got the idea for a bridal room because a lot of bridal shops in the area have closed and ordinary charity shops don't have the space to display wedding gowns. The average wedding now tops the 20,000 mark and brides spend between 500 and 1,000 on their dress alone.

Diane reckons a couple could get a wedding gown, a man's suit, a couple of bridesmaid dresses, a pageboy's outfit and all the accessories at the store for around 350.

The Halifax branch of the RSPCA already has three shops in Halifax town centre, Brighouse and Hebden Bridge and needs around 4,000 a day to keep afloat. The majority of the money comes from the shops. It does not receive any Government funding.

The new store will be managed by Vanessa Gledhill and five volunteers.

Anyone who would like to volunteer at the store or give items can contact Diane or Vanessa on 01422 362461.