Thrifting has finally gone mainstream
By Mimi Novak
One uplifting thought about the economic downturn is that more and more people have discovered the joys and benefits of shopping at thrift stores – including the millions of TV viewers who watch NBC’s The Today Show. You know that thrifting has gone mainstream when this popular morning program runs an entire segment about it on their show.
And, in the past week, The Today Show website has featured at least one article every day dedicated to some aspect of thrift store shopping. Their popular style maven, Bobbie Thomas, has even gotten into the act by helping viewers find cool accessories to spruce up their wardrobes, all from their local thrift store.
When Ann Curry recently chatted with Today Show consumer reporter Janice Lieberman about how to find great deals at thrift stores, Lieberman offered the following tips for thrift store shopping:
• Wear tight-fitting clothes so you can try on clothing right from the rack
• Examine clothing for any damage or unpleasant odors
• Ask yourself the question, “Will I really wear this?”
• Bring batteries with you when shopping for electronics
I would add a couple more, including: avoid buying unnecessary items by making a list of what you need, and check for online coupons before you head out the door to save even more money once you get there.
While some retailers are struggling to attract customers in this down economy, thrift stores saw a 7% increase in growth last year, according to the National Association of Resale Professionals. Approximately 18 % of Americans now shop regularly at thrift stores, as compared to 21% who shop at department stores. Thrift stores are also starting to utilize incentives similar to retail establishments to lure customers, such as offering online coupons, frequent-shopper cards or executive membership cards.
Bargain hunters, antique dealers, interior designers, fashionistas and frugal moms can all be found combing the thrift store aisles seeking bargains to wear, resell or bring home. Some even supplement their incomes by shopping at thrift stores and re-selling their purchases for a profit on eBay or Craigslist, all with the help of an “app” on their smart phones.
While shopping at thrift stores used to have a stigma for some people, this is no longer the case, according to Lieberman. “There is no more stigma, it’s kind of fun and you’re recycling,” Lieberman said in her report.
Of course, we loyal thrifters already knew this, but it’s nice to know that more and more people are discovering the joys of thrifting and the thrill of the treasure hunt.
Goodwill Industries estimates that around 50% of their customers are truly those in need, while the other half are simply “treasure hunters.” More than 74 million people donated to or visited a Goodwill store last year.
Aside from the obvious bargains on everything from designer wear to dungarees, there are countless humanitarian and environmental reasons to shop at second-hand stores. Not only are your shopping dollars funding worthwhile social programs that benefit nonprofit organizations, but organizations like Goodwill assist the needy, reduce landfill waste, cut down on conspicuous consumption, and help you do your part for the environment by recycling and re-using items. It’s fun, it’s creative, and you’d be amazed at what you can find!
Mimi Novak is a freelance writer and a self-proclaimed thrift store junkie. She has furnished her entire house in Oakland with items she purchased from thrift stores. She is the founder and editor of the Thrift Store Junkies blog.