Young adults are beginning to bi-pass department stores and opting to do their clothing, shoe, and accessory shopping in local thrift stores instead. The act of thrift store shopping is known now as “thrifting”. The thrifting trend has increased significantly since the effects of the recession, and it continues to be an efficient way to add to anyone’s wardrobe.
The truth is, the recession has dramatically decreased consumer spending, especially on clothing and accessories. Consumers are a lot less likely to purchase $200 jeans and $300 shoes; however, the need to buy clothing and accessories is still prevalent. So what do you do when you can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on merchandise? ” It just makes sense to go to the thrift store,” says Christy Meadows, 22. “Come on! You can buy shirts for as low as a dollar if you go to the right one.”
Local boutiques that never saw donation centers such as Salvation Army and Goodwill as competition now do. Boutiques aimed towards the fashionable consumer are now realizing that charging $150+ for an outfit doesn’t work anymore; it doesn’t work because the consumer can easily achieve a similar look for much less.
“I’ve worked here for about 2 years, and I hear people say ‘I can find that in a thrift store’ all the time,” says Eddie Brooks, 25, sales associate at a local boutique in Tenslytown. “People buy things of course or we wouldn’t be in business, but you can definitely tell people are hesitant to spend the money. I thrift so I know.
It’s rather easy to see why people would purchase thrift store items instead of boutiques. Considering most fashionable boutiques sell clothing by up-and-coming or unknown designers, consumers are not knowingly paying for the brand.
“Stores like Urban Outfitters are insanely over-priced. The place looks like a thrift store [laughs]. I don’t know. It just seems to be a name and brand to me and my friends. We end up getting basically the same button-up for a way cheaper price,” says Elena Christie, 21.
And if it’s the name brands you crave, thrifters have an answer for that as well. Because thrift store merchandise is donated merchandise, Meadows says that it’s easy to find name brand items. Shifting through the racks, your eyes are met with Ralph Lauren, Guess, Valentino, Christian Dior, and other major fashion houses. Yes, the items are outdated, but they are extremely affordable.
“Everything in fashion comes back. My favorite thing in my closet is an old Dior blazer I found for 10 dollars at a Goodwill a few years back. I definitely wear it now,” says Christie.
While boutiques and department stores may suffer a loss of consumers, thrift stores are continuing to gain. Donation centers such as Goodwill and Salvation Army are seeing a shift of customer demographic. “A while back, it was usually the people who were not financial capable of shopping at stores like Macy’s, but we see a lot of young people coming through, especially college students,” says Salvation Army sales associate Diane Ruthins.
According to Brooks, for those moderately to seriously interested in fashion, thrifting is a way of expressing your style without labels. “Me and my friends really love clothes and its cool to mix and match different things. You end up leaving with a couple outfits and money in your pocket. And it goes to charity!”
A few boutique owners have used the trend to their advantage such as Annie’s Cream Cheese, a vintage/thrift store in Georgetown. The clothing store operates as a thrift store where you can buy both high-end and low-end labels. The slight difference is some of the clothes were shopped specifically for the store.
“Of course I’ve been there,” says Meadows. “In most stores you have to shift through a few racks to find exactly what you want, but its like the store does it for you.”
Thrifting has become a major trend in consumer consumption regarding clothing and accessories. It wouldn’t be long before thrift stores became digital. And they have. There are a few online shopping boutiques that operate like the Annie’s Cream Cheese Boutique such as nastygal.com. Online shoppers can shop thrift store items that cater specifically to their taste.
Nonetheless, people who take heed to the low prices and great merchandise say they don’t rule out department stores completely. Because thrift stores will never truly compete with the vigorous fashion industry, it’s becoming a way to conserve money without compromising style. Brooks says,
“Of course we still buy stuff from our favorite stores. Mix and match I guess. It’s just a lot easier on our pockets, you can find great stuff, and it’s just fun.”