Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Thrifting comes full circle

Article courtesy of cnn.com.

Editorial comment at the end by me. ;)


COLUMBIA, Missouri (AP) -- Forget about the outdated notion of thrift shops as the refuge of the working poor, the down and out or the vintage fashion hipster. In these troubled times, the powerful lure of a secondhand retail bargain is attracting a whole new breed of customer.
Thrift stores report seeing more middle-class and upper-class customers, who they haven't seen before.

Thrift stores report seeing more middle-class and upper-class customers, who they haven't seen before.

The Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries International, the nation's two largest charitable resale organizations, report year-to-date sales increases of 6 percent to 15 percent.

The gains are even more pronounced in the private sector. In an industry trade group survey of more than 200 resale and thrift shops, nearly two-thirds of those businesses reported higher sales in 2008 compared to the previous year. The average sales increase: 35 percent.

Consumers "can't change the price of gas. They can't change the price of food. They can't make the stock market go up again," said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops. "But they can control the price of clothes and furniture by being a savvy shopper."

The Salvation Army store in Dublin, Georgia, located halfway between Atlanta and Savannah, has seen its sales increase by 50 percent this year, said store operator Gary Spivey. The comparative affluence of his new customers is obvious.

"We're seeing a lot more middle-class and upper-class customers we haven't seen before," he said. "Without even asking, you can just look in the parking lot (at their cars)."

Savers Inc., a for-profit thrift store chain based in Bellevue, Washington, has had a 10 percent growth rate, said chief executive officer Ken Alterman. The company now has 220 Savers and Value Village stores in the United States, Canada and Australia, and expects to open 25 new stores in each of the next several years.

According to Alterman, 75 percent of the company's customers are college educated, with an average income between $50,000 and $65,000. Thirty percent of its customers have household incomes exceeding $100,000, he said.

Some of the chain's most successful stores are in Redmond, Washington, home to Microsoft; the high-end waterfront in Victoria, British Columbia; and the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

"We're in these beautiful neighborhoods, and the stores just thrive," Alterman said. "We hold up well in this economy."

Widespread economic turmoil and personal financial struggles aren't the only factors driving the increased interest in resale retail, experts say. A growing "green" ethos among American consumers has also propelled the industry.

"People are really savvy now," said Angie Heidenreich, owner of LuLu's Consignment Boutique in Fletcher, North Carolina. "With consignment you make money, you save money and you recycle. It's a no-brainer."

Heidenreich opened her consignment store -- which essentially serves as a middleman for customers who want to buy and sell clothes -- in November, 2006. Sales increases of nearly 100 percent forced her to more than triple the store's size to keep up with demand.

"We're getting more people in who probably wouldn't have stepped in the door," she said. "It's more acceptable now than it was in the past. The image of thrift stores were kind of grungy, dingy places. Now some of them are like boutiques."

In the Missouri college town of Columbia, both Goodwill and The Salvation Army report recent sales increases of roughly 25 percent.

April Hayes, a 28-year-old legal secretary, has shopped at the Columbia Goodwill store for six months at the urging of her mother and sister. During a recent weekday lunch break, she combed the store's racks in search of business attire.

"I've gotten addicted," she said. "You can pay $2 or $3 for the same thing that would cost you $400 at the mall."

The surge in thrift store sales has its downside, though. The Salvation Army reports a dangerous decline in donations. Just as consumers are now more likely to buy secondhand goods, they are also less likely to get rid of their used clothing or furniture.

"We rely heavily on consumer culture," said spokeswoman Melissa Temme. "People are finding that the couch can last a little longer. The suit, while it may not be perfect for this year's fashion, is fine."

Money earned at its thrift stores helps fund the agency's adult rehabilitation program. So while administrators are thrilled at the growing revenue, they also fear an inventory shortage.

"At some point it's going to come to a head," Temme said. "If donations continue to stay down, we're going to lack items to sell."

As a result, The Salvation Army is rolling out a national ad campaign in January -- the first in its 128-year history in this country.

New customers aside, thrift shops continue to attract a devoted cadre of bargain-hunters. Now that more traditional shoppers have been exposed to the secondhand market, its boosters don't expect that renewed interest to taper off anytime soon.

"People always love a bargain," Meyer said. "Nowadays, it's just more necessary."


Is it bad that I want to yell "get your paws off my cool thrift store finds?" :)

Yes, I know it is. So I won't say it. I'll think it, but I won't say it.

I've always loved thrifting, junking and garage saling. Hubs and I are into "green living" and our motto is "reuse, recycle, repurpose." Thrifting is the ultimate in recycling! You can find some really neat things...hidden treasures, cool items for decorating projects and more.

My BEST thrift store score ever was a Coach wallet. It was white leather, retails for about $200. Want to know how much I paid for it?

Go ahead and guess.

You'll never believe it.


Yes, that's right, I said one dollar. I about peed my pants. I think I had drool running down my face. I snatched that baby up, threw my dollar on the counter (ok, not really, but I got out of there so fast before they could realize the error of their ways!) and got the heck out of dodge.

You see, the thrift stores around here have gotten savvy. They know the "good brands" and price those items with non-thrift store prices.

Except this time.

Score one for me!

Purchasing from your local thrift store is good for the community. People who may not otherwise be able to find a job are employed. Money from the sales goes to charity. Fewer items are put into our landfills. It's a winner all the way around.

Do you like thrifting and junking? What have been some of your best purchases?

Edited to show wallet.
NOTE: this is not my actual wallet. I don't have a pic of it here at work. Mine is exactly like this, though, except it's white, not black.


Buzzings of a Queen Bee! said...

I just can't beat that Coach wallet. Wow, that is amazing! I once got a rabbit wine opener (I think they're around $100) for $3.50. I bragged about that for weeks! :)

Shannon said...

Please show us a pic of the wallet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (if you still have it)

Interesting article!

I know what you mean about glass doors. That is my only draw back. I am thinking I want one with glass up top. :)

My favorite finds have been furniture. Not for a dollar but still a good price! :)

Glamorous Life of a House Wife said...

Your blog header cracks me up!!

Jenni @ nest to keep said...

That is so amazing that you found that wallet for one dollar! :)
My favorite find was a neat hall tree, and I am almost done painting it! :)

I love your blog! I am definitely coming back again! :)

DC Goodwill Fashionista said...

I just picked up a $150 dress for $9 the other day, but I think your Coach wallet beats all! I'm glad people are picking up on the CNN article...thanks for pointing it out! -the DCGF

Mojito Maven said...

where are the photos????? i need photos...

Tamara Jansen said...

Someone should start a thrift store for people like me.....an more edited version.....I just don't have enough time to root through things. Wouldn't that be great?! The "pick of the litter" style thrift store!

Gwen said...

I remember the story of the $1 Coach wallet. :)

I do like thrifting and junking though sometimes thrift shops still give me the hibby jibbies. LOL Sorry, but some do...

Best score... hmmm, well, after dealing with tons and tons of apples recently, I'd say my best score was a few years ago at a yard sale in AL. I got the pampered chef apple/peeler/corer/slicer for $7 as opposed to the PC price of thirty something.

Sandy Toes said...

I believe this article...I need to find the closest thrift shop...it's amazing what the blog ladies find at them!
-Sandy toes

MeganSloan said...

I started reading your blog the other day (or week or month, I can't remember) and today, when I checked in on ya I saw my hometown! The article was from Columbia, and although it doesn't mention much about the town, we do have some good thrift stores. Now I want to go shopping and see if I can find an great bargain like your $1 wallet.

Rachel said...

I ♥ bargains! I love value village in Tri-cities Washington. I bought a wingback chair for 14.99! It's an awesome chair.

Junk Sophisticate said...

As I read the article my first thought too was "ah man, less stuff for me!" But as it states, it will come to a head. Most likely the thrift store prices will go up unfortunately however, I hope that day doesn't come too quick. There was also another article that mentioned more people are selling their own items on ebay and Craigslist just to make a few extra bucks for their family. Makes sense.

Best thrift store finds? A lot of Southern Living and Pampered Chef items still in their boxes for less than 5.00 each!


Sweet Simplicity said...

A DOLLAR???? That is crazy!! Very lucky!