||Recession Has Many Looking Thrift Store Chic
For Patrice J. Williams, shopping at thrift stores started out as a way she could dress like other women in her office without breaking the bank.
Now, she thinks of thrift shopping as a "treasure hunt" -- one that benefits her closet and her wallet, says Williams, a 29-year-old freelance writer living in New York City.
"I didn't tell people I thrifted at first," says Williams, who created a blog dedicated to helping readers shop on a budget. "Now, I proudly tell my friends that my dress cost 50 cents."
With millions of people looking for ways to save money in tough economic times, a growing number of consumers have turned to resale shops to find their clothes, furniture and household goods, said Adele Meyer, executive director of The Association of Resale Professionals.
Resale shops are thriving, popping up across the country. Within the last year, the number of resale shops has increased by 7%, Meyer said. Much of the recent growth can be attributed to young shoppers, many of whom are passing on trips to the mall in favor of thrift stores, says Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of America's Research Group, which has studied the trend.
About 20% of people shop in thrift stores regularly, compared with about 14% in 2008, Beemer said.
Crystal Garner, 18, said there aren't many resale shops where she lives, in Meridian, Miss., so she often travels a few hours to the Gulf Coast to find great deals.
Garner says she loves thrift shopping because "you can find unique pieces that you would normally pay an arm and a leg for in an upscale boutique."
It is sometimes "awkward" when a friend will ask her where she got her cute bag, she says. But Garner says she has never been embarrassed about her passion for thrift shopping.
Meyer said some donate merchandise to a non-profit resale shop, such as Goodwill, The Salvation Army or school or church thrift shops, and take advantage of tax deductions while helping a charity raise money. Others may choose to sell or consign merchandise at a consignment shop, turning no-longer-needed items into cash.
Since its start in 1902, Goodwill Industries has expanded into 2,700 stores in 15 countries, said Jim Gibbons, CEO and president of Goodwill. The total donated goods revenue for the Goodwill network is more than $3 billion, he said.
Since 2007, Goodwill has experienced a compound annual growth rate of approximately 10%, with 2012 continuing on that trajectory, said Lauren Lawson, media relations manager at Goodwill.
Gibbons says the image of secondhand shops has changed in recent years, no longer thought of as dimly lit stores selling outdated clothes. Now, consumers shop at Goodwill for its clean, organized racks filled with great deals, Gibbons says.
Shoppers are also flocking to The Salvation Army's more than 600 stores. In the last five years, there has been about a 4% increase in sales. There is expected to be a 1.5% rise in sales this year compared with 2011, said Maj. Mark Nelson, secretary for business at the company.
"I think that we do have more shoppers on the lower end of the spectrum," Nelson said. "People who went to larger discount stores are now shopping wth us."
Beemer said that because of the recession, everyone knows at least one person who is unemployed. Many people are donating old clothes, or even clothes they have never worn, because they know it is for a good cause. He added that donors get a tax deduction, another incentive for people to donate.
Irma Zandl, president of Zandl Group, an agency that tracks consumer and lifestyle trends, said much of the growth is due to unique items sold.
"People today take pride in being individual and unique, in setting trends vs. following them, and with so much sameness at malls throughout the country, one way to achieve this kind of originality is by buying retro and vintage items that are no longer in production," Zandl said.
Selena Cate, a Sebastopol, Calif., mother, says her children are already interested in thrift shopping, sparked from accompanying her to find good deals. Her 10-year-old son has a good eye for finding treasures such as gold and sterling silver, she says.
Cate estimates that 95% of her household items were bought secondhand, purchased on her thrice-weekly trips to find cheap goods.
"Why am I thrifty? So that I can have choices on where to spend my money," Cate says. "Frugality is all about having choices, and those choices will be different for every one of us."
(Source: USA Today, 07/06/12)
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