Thrifting Through Retail Finds

Gone are the days of being embarrassed by shopping at a thrift store like Goodwill Industries International or The Salvation Army. The concept of second-hand stores has undergone an evolution of sorts over the past 10 years, and a slew of new niche consignment shops have popped up to suit different consumers needs.

From thredUP to The RealReal, Tradesy and SnobSwap, every retail segment out there today seems to be looking for some sort of deal on discounted items, especially clothes. Whether second-hand clothing options, or eCommerce platforms like craigslist for used furniture or eBay for assorted other needs, thrift shopping is not a new concept. The space, however, is now getting a pseudo makeover treatment thanks to the online arena.

These second-hand retail options have become so popular that there is now an entire day dedicated to celebrating them: National Thrift Store Day. Founded by ReuseNYC, this day is designed to shine a light on New York City’s reuse sector and also push out information that second-hand stores shouldn’t be the last place to stop on a trip to buy goods.

This year’s National Thrift Store Day, held just this past Thursday (Aug. 17), saw little to no news circling it, though. Although there has been a significant increase in consignment-related retailers, there might still be a stigma attached to the concept of “second-hand” in larger retail industry circles.

When it comes to overall news on second-hand and consignment stores, thredUP’s research shows $18 billion of the $40 billion resale industry comes directly from clothes. In fact, reselling of thrift apparel is projected to reach $33 billion by 2021.

Some second-hand stores that have sprung up online, like thredUP, have recently gone “old school” by opening brick-and-mortar locations. In addition to luxury second-hand store The RealReal opening up its own physical space, the company is also making plans to file for its IPO at some point in the future.

While the concept of thrift store shopping is nothing new, the sudden surge in popularity was apparent following the 2008 recession when it saw a 35 percent spike in sales. From Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” song in 1971 to news that actress Sarah Jessica Parker shops for her kids exclusively through second-hand stores, the stigma once attached to buying from thrift has slowly eroded — likely contributing to the lucrativeness of this retail industry sector.

“As the timeline shows, attitudes toward thrift are truly coming full circle as today’s consumer realizes that shopping thrift can enable them to thrive,” a thredUP spokesperson shared with PYMNTS.

thredUP’s History of Thrift Timeline:

thrift store history

Popularity of second-hand stores continues to grow today, and there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon. It’s even possible second-hand may become a standard fixture in the foreseeable future.

In one of thredUP’s recent surveys of buyers who previously made second-hand purchases, 73 percent have shopped for items outside of apparel. Fifty percent reported looking for “unique finds” and one-third wanted a more eco-friendly way of shopping.

Retail news this weekend focused on the discount sector, though. The dollar retailers of America, including Dollar Tree, Inc. and Dollar General, shared that although some sales have been lost to the Walmarts and Amazons of today, neither feels any pressure to lower its prices to stay competitive.

Meanwhile, one of the more disorganized discount retailers, Ross Stores, is thriving. This past quarter, the retailer saw an 8 percent increase in sales to $3.4 billion. As such, it should come as no surprise Ross’ shares surged to just over 10 percent on Friday.

The discounted and thrift stores have become a competitive force to be reckoned with in the retail industry, and it may not be too long before we see bigger names hopping into the consignment game. After all, most consumers today appear to be looking for a good bargain.

So, the next time you’re out to buy new clothes or home goods, you may want to stop by your local thrift store to pop some tags.