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.