Such is the appeal of pawning for instant cash, the NPA now has 1,800 pawnbroker shops and online members in the UK — up from 530 in 2007. A pawnbroker typically lends up to 50 per cent of the value of an item for six months. The customer then repays the loan plus interest, which tends to be between two and seven per cent (compared with an average 19.5 per cent on a bank overdraft and 17.3 per cent on a credit card). The bad news? If the customer is unable to repay within the time period, the pawnbroker takes possession of their items and sells them to recoup the value of the loan and interest. In 1971, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg famously raised cash to launch her fledgling wrap-dress business by pawning her diamond ring. The dress became her signature and, today, her business is a multi-million-dollar corporation.
Fast-forward 40 years, and we find Sasha Cutts, 41, a private caterer, pawning her £1,000 DVF evening gown to keep her business afloat. She also handed over two pairs of unworn Christian Louboutin heels worth a total of around £1,400, as well as a £10,000 Cartier watch and £5,000 Tiffany earrings — all of them gifts from her soon-to-be former husband.‘Our bank accounts were frozen while we embarked on divorce proceedings and with my business to run and staff costs to cover, in November last year I found myself in need of £10,000 to see me through while I waited for clients to settle accounts,’ she explains. Sasha, who lives near Ascot, Berkshire, with her two-year-old son, says that although she likes to wear all of the pieces that she’s pawned, she no longer has an emotional attachment to them, mainly because they were gifts from her ex.
‘If anything,’ she says, ‘I want to get rid of them. It certainly won’t hurt being parted from them for a few months. My priority is to keep my business running smoothly and the loan has enabled me to do that. I know that as soon as our divorce is settled, I’ll be able to repay my loan and reclaim my designer items.’Ian Williams was the first online pawnbroker to offer loans against designer clothes and accessories (pawn brokeronline.co.uk). ‘Often women find that their wardrobes rival their jewellery boxes when it comes to their most valuable assets,’ he says. ‘One client needed urgent dental work so borrowed £1,500 against five pairs of Chanel shoes, all of them boxed with their original receipts and in pristine condition.