Being Thrifty: Why Whats Old is Now Hot
March 10, 2015 | Your Finances
Leah Blanton likes one-of-a-kind clothing, but she’s not willing to pay designer prices to get them. Like many others of her generation, the 27-year-old landscape designer is part of a growing trend that marries budget-consciousness with a desire to express individuality.
Fashion-conscious Millennials are increasingly de-branding as a way to stand out from the crowd. Less interested in logo-centric apparel, they’re passing on trips to the mall in favor of thrift and vintage clothing shops and using websites like Craigslist, eBay and Etsy to guide their shopping carts.
Research by Ypulse confirms that expressing individuality is a priority for Millennials. More than half (55 percent) of people between the ages of 13 and 34 say: “I don’t follow trends; I like to think I have my own personal style.” Or as Blanton said, “No one wants to hear the words, ‘Oh wow, I have that exact sweater, too.’”
As a result of young shoppers like Blanton and Snyder, resale shops are thriving. According to NARTS, the Association of Resale Professionals, the number of thrift shops being operated in the U.S. is growing at about 7 percent per year, which is faster than other retail stores (Industry Statistics and Trends 2014) and represents annual revenues of approximately $12 billion (the Used Merchandise Stories Industry Profile, updated November 10, 2014).
Some 16 to 18 percent of Americans now shop at thrift stores, according to America’s Research Group (quoted on the NARTS website). This compares to 11.4 percent of Americans who shop in factory outlet malls, 19.6 percent in apparel stores and 21.3 percent in major department stores.
There are many benefits to thrift shopping. The most obvious is that buying gently used clothing is a cost-effective way to build a wardrobe. Burdened with student debt and a challenging job market, many young consumers are realizing that spending $70 or more for a new pair of jeans at a major retailer isn’t sustainable. For budget-conscious Millennials, thrifting is a way to stretch their dollars farther.
Another benefit of the thrift-store trend is that it’s ultimately good for the planet. Every article of clothing in a secondhand shop is essentially being recycled. Used clothing makes its way from one person’s closet to another’s, thus avoiding a landfill.
Last but not least, many thrift stores today carefully curate their offerings. That means the retro and vintage clothes you’ll find in resale shops are likely to be more unique and often better made than those on retail store shelves. “There’s so much sameness at the malls. At thrift stores, you’re more likely to get things that really speak to you, as opposed to wearing what everyone else has on,” said Blanton.
To the newbie, a thrift store may appear awash in clutter. But as Quillan Snyder, a 22-year-old aspiring artist from New York, finds, today’s resale shops are filled with gems if you’re willing to look for them. “A lot of what keeps me coming back to thrift stores is the ‘thrill of the hunt.’ I’m always on the lookout for a random tool, household item, or decorative object that I can use in my art or at home,” said Snyder. “When I can score a well-made set of tools for $5 or a computer mouse for 50 cents, I have extra cash to spend on things that are more important to me. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I see how far I can make my money go.”
According to Snyder, he buys about half of his household items and clothing in resale shops. Blanton estimates that she purchases about 80 percent of her wardrobe secondhand, either locally or online. Both agree that the key to thrifting success is knowing where to shop.
“Some people prefer to thrift via the internet; others prefer to roll up their sleeves and sift through racks of used merchandise,” said Blanton. “I enjoy both. I especially love digging through piles of cast-off clothing in the hopes of uncovering that one perfect holy grail of a treasure. But when I’m in the market for something specific, like a certain brand of jeans or a specific item for my apartment, I find that online sites are a better bet for finding what I need.”
For Snyder, brick-and-mortar stores are the way to go. “They’re the ultimate one-stop shopping experience, where value is the name of the game and the shop is packed with potential,” said Snyder. “There’s nothing like the thrill of poppin’ tags, color-coded weekly discounts and the satisfaction of knowing I got what I needed for a fraction of what that same item would cost new.”