Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Contrary to popular belief, not all thrift stores are charitable  non-profits.  Usually, a non-profit thrift store is one that accepts donated new or used goods which are then offered for sale in a retail setting to the public.  The proceeds of those sales benefit a charitable cause or program.

The stores are commonly owned by a charity or non-profit ministry but run as an independent business under contract; that is, the stores are licensed by the charity, which provides the goods for sale, and benefits by the sale of these goods directly to the contractor who operates the shop.

The store is staffed either by volunteers with a paid manager, or paid staff who may be involved in one or more of the charitable programs.  Because the items for sale are donated, and there is no cost of goods, the items sold tend to be priced very low.  Sometimes items are even offered free to qualified economically-challenged people with approved vouchers.

A for-profit thrift store generally buys its merchandise from charities in bulk to be sold for a profit to the public, again, in a retail setting, but the goods can also come from other sources like manufacturers and department stores with overstocked goods.  Clearly a win-win situation, the charities that wholesale their goods to for-profits are able to further fund their programs from the proceeds, in addition to the goods sold at their own stores at retail.

Do you ever wonder what happens to all those donations that don't sell?  Almost all non-profit thrift stores sell their unsold textiles (unfashionable styles, stained or damaged fabric) to textile processors, who in turn, ship the processed goods mostly to Third World countries.  In fact, almost half the garments donated to stores like The Salvation Army and Goodwill eventually end up in overseas markets as resale clothing or industrial fiber, according to a Seattle Times' story, "Old Clothes Go Global" (2/25/07).

Besides the low prices, the recycling of goods at thrift stores attracts many shoppers who like to "go green", considering themselves environmentally and globally-conscious.  With the amount of jobs created through the recycling of donations nationally and abroad, you can understand the appeal.

A resale store is one that simply buys, sells or trades new or used merchandise and offers it for sale.  If the store buys outright, they may offer the option to the seller of a higher price if they accept a store credit versus a lower price if they want cash.  These are very popular with young people in particular as a way to recycle their clothes while expanding and updating their wardrobes for very little money.

Bargain and deal are used interchangeably to describe merchandise that is offered at a favorable price for sale.  It is also a perception because what is a bargain to one person may be only a slight blip on the markdown screen to a seasoned bargainista.

Friday, October 7, 2011



We all know that bargains are good and services acquired at less than their market value.  The less the price, the better.  So, here are the bargain store or off-price shopping options highlighted in our "Savvy Shopper's Guide to Thrift & Consignment Stores":

The actual term "consignment" comes from the French word "consigner" meaning "to hand over or transmit".  Consigning, then is placing a person or thing in the hand of another, like clothing or furniture, but retaining ownership until the goods are sold.

A consignment store (consignor) takes new or used goods from a consignee (person consigning) and agrees to offer to sell the merchandise within a certain time frame to the public in a retail setting for a profit.  Used may mean formerly-enjoyed, gently-used, previously-treasured, repurposed, redesigned and/or or resurrected.  The profit is usually split between the store owner and the consignee for anywheere from 40% - 60%.  Items are usually hand-picked by staff, kept for sale for 2 - 3 months, and then either donated, or retrieved by consignees.  Consignees also have the option of purchasing items in the store with the credit accumulated in their accounts from the sale of their items.

Consignment is distinguished by:

1.  The relation between the two parties is that of consignor (store owner) and consignee (person consigning)
2.  The consignor is entitled to receive all the expenses in connection with consignment
3.  The consignee is not responsible for damage to goods while in the possession of consignor
4.  Goods are sold at the risk of consignor who also absorbs any profit or loss
5.  Although consigned, title to the items is retained by the consignee

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Resale shopping is a boost for bargainistas.  How else can you expand your wardrobe without expanding your budget..and recycle at the same time?

There are other advantages to shopping resale like:

   *recycling your clothes allows you to shop guilt-free

   *in this down economy, resale shopping consigning are strategies for downsizing; you can't control the prices of gas or food, but you can control your clothing budget

   *you can feel good about shopping at stores that fund charitable causes

   *it's fun, like a treasure hunt

   *it's an inexpensive outing with friends

   *you feel like you're getting away with something when you find a bargain

What are your favorite reasons for shopping on the cheap?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Remember the old paradigm of a resale store - messy, disorganized, dirty, smelly, no fitting rooms, old items in poor condition, dimly lit?  No wonder people rejected the concept, not to mention the presentation and merchandise.  it was truly a discount disaster zone.

The chief complaint of thrift store shoppers in the past has been the offensive odor - rather like old socks, according to some people.  Shopping is a sensory experience, so when a shopper enters a store, it must look good, sound good, feel good, and, of course, smell good.

Shoppers expect shopping venues to be pleasant, and since the majority of -people are strongly visual, presentation is everything.  Merchandise must be clean, in good condition, well-displayed by color, size and price.  Lighting must be bright and cheerful.  There must be fitting rooms with mirrors, relaxing music and friendly staff.

It's apparent that many of the thrift stores today have hired retail consultants to shape up their stores, and the results of the cosmetic surgery are dramatic.  The stores have lifted, nipped and tucked their presentation and content, putting a new face on thrift store shopping.  Now they often compete with their retail cousins for the most beautiful shopping smile.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


So, it seems shabby cheap has become shabby chic.  The term thrifting is now a verb, not to mention a national pastime.  Why the growing social acceptance?  Let us count the ways:

*prices are a fraction of original retail prices and often 60%-80% less on designer and better apparel, shoes and sporting goods

*you can still maintain an upscale lifestyle on a tight budget

*you can buy designer and better brands that you could not normally afford

*you can find items that are unusual, especially if you shop vintage

*you can be more trendy/stylish knowing that if your purchase doesn't suit you, it can be resold or consigned, and because you didn't pay much for the item, your fashion faux pas is a free pass

*you can expand your wardrobe without expanding your budget

*you can turn over your wardrobe faster because the less yo pay for an item, the easier it is to let it go

*you can feel good about what you buy because you are paying less and have the ability to recycle what you buy (thereby recovering some of your initial investment)

What's not to love about this process?  It's a win-win for everyone involved!  Happy shopping!

Friday, August 5, 2011


Resale clothing in this country has had its own evolution.   The first resale store was reportedly opened by The Junior League, a charitable organization, in New York in 1914.  They sold gently-worn clothing, accessories, toys, housewares, appliances and home furnishings.  Other charitable thrift stores appeared by the mid 1930's, all designed to help the needy.

Today resale stores have broadened their focus in both merchandise and target cutomers, and are the fastest growing segment of retail business, totaling about 30,000 stores currently with sales reaching $12 billion, according to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops. Virtually recession-proof, the resale business has continued to increase at a steady rate of 7% for the past two years.  According to industry reports, three-fourths of the stores surveyed reported an average 35% increase in sales for September-October 2010.

Once upon a time, there was a stigma about shopping at thrift and resale stores; however, in a recent e-Bay poll, 70% of shoppers say that it is socially acceptable to shop at resale stores versus five years ago.  Almost one-third of American shoppers now buy pre-owned products, says WSL Strategies Retail, a consulting firm for the retail industry.  In fact, 16%-18% of Americans shop at thrift stores yearly compared to 19.6% who shop at retail apparel stores, and 21.3% who shop at major department stores, according to National Association of Retail/Thrift Store figures.  Clearly, thrifting is now a fashion phenonemon.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


It's difficult to say when bargain shopping first began.  The earliest shopping efforts were probably about trading:  a buffalo skin for a winter's supply of food; a rifle for a mule; a homemade apple pie for a petticoat.  It was about supply and demand.  And when the supply exceeded the demand, the price went down:  bargains were born.

The first recorded resale activity for clothing was in Paris in the early 18th Century.  True to Parisians' reputation for being fashion-forward, the "resale" clothing (in addition to fashionable fabrics, lace and jewelry) was actually stolen from the upper class and sold in the lower class underground for a fraction of the original cost (hence the term "getting a steal").  In fact, 28% of the criminal cases tried in Paris in 1710 involved stolen clothing.

The practice became very popular and was later legitimized via taxes collected on the hundreds of resellers doing business, according to tax rolls of the time.  Since clothing revealed the "harmony of the inner and outer man", clothes became the highly desirable "..weapons in the battle of appearance", according to The Culture of Clothing.  Some things never change.  You are what you wear; the mode of acquisition is immaterial.  Tres chic!