JUST after Christmas I bought six skirts on one day.

I’m not label obsessed, but for those of you who are, two came from Monsoon, two from Marks & Spencer, one says Next, and the other East.

It wasn’t a case of suddenly coming into money. I had less than £20, but it more than covered the cost of the garments.

I bought the skirts for £3 each at a charity shop, to which my friend and I pay regular visits.

Raising funds for a local hospice, the shop offers an endless stream of gorgeous garments for a fraction of the price you’d pay on the high street.

Its reputation as a purveyor of fabulous goods has earned it the nickname ‘Harrods’, and it attracts almost as many customers as the famous London store.

Well, maybe not that many, but it’s always busy.

The same can be said of other charity shops, which are booming thanks to Britain’s ‘squeezed’ middle class, who are said to be shunning swanky boutiques for bargains.

In the past year, charity shops took a record £1billion – a rise of £34million – as around a million middle-income families changed their shopping habits and discovered charity shops.

What I’d like to know is why they have waited so long.

Why should it take a double-dip recession to get them through the doors?

Why pay the earth for things like children's clothing and toys, which have limited shelf lives, when they’re available good-as-new, so cheaply?

Charity shops have changed.

Some people still think of them as harbouring boxes of jumble, and a stale smell.

A handful of those still linger – there’s one near my parents’ house which warrants a face mask – but most are bright, fresh, and inviting.

And crammed with good stuff.

I’ve always used charity shops.

I love the thrill of unearthing something I love, at a bargain price.

I recently bought a pair of new trousers for my husband, plus a fleece-lined shirt he virtually lives in, for £8.

Crockery, stationery, make-up, and toys – when my children were younger charity shops were a Godsend, full of dolls and games – are among the things I regularly snap up.

I bought a set of gorgeous rustic garden furniture from an Oxfam but couldn’t fit it in the car. Yet even with the hire of a van, it was a bargain. And you can’t beat them for books.

My youngest daughter couldn’t believe it when I recently brought home a JLS book, signed by the band members (we’re certain it’s authentic).

Cash-strapped middle classes are waking up to all this – but while it’s a good thing, it’s also a worry.

Charity shops struggle for donations.

We loyal supporters don’t want to find there’s not enough to go round.