Why Buy at Thrift Stores?
by Richard Rowell; Co-owner of Brand Shamans & Write W.A.V.E. Media
Why buy at thrift stores? Most people argue that thrifting is a great way to make some money on the side and that it can become some sort of hobby. That is perfectly possible. In fact, I greatly encourage supporting these stores.
I believe everyone should shop at thrift stores, but not because of the price. I believe people should frequent thrift stores so that we are consistently reusing things people no longer had any use for. There are plenty of perfectly good things worth buying used. Why waste them by buying new? It saves money, but also makes economical sense.
But, of course, you have to have enough people donating useful enough items for people to want to shop there.
Back in 2014, we lost a hometown thrift store that I frequented, AMVETS. Honestly, the quality of their donations had declined to the point that no one shopped there anymore. There’s a Salvation Army store across town, but it’s not exactly convenient for me. It’s a beautiful store with a donation center with people that actually help you with your donations, which is really cool. I still donated things there, even being that far, because I don’t want to see another thrift store fail.
I’ve wanted to write something for a while about why shopping at thrift stores is a good idea. But when I did a little research, I discovered something that I probably should not have been surprised to find. There are plenty of guides out there on how to buy items at thrift stores. On the first page of Google alone, there are five or six solid lists of what to buy and what not to buy at thrift stores. The advantages of shopping at thrift stores are obvious: major bargains that can save you a bundle, convenience of having a very wide variety of items available to you, and finding items you might not otherwise find outside of a specialty store.
Sure, you can donate unneeded items for charitable tax donations. That’s a perfectly fine reason. Many thrift stores do represent certain charities; the Salvation Army, in particular, has a famous chain of thrift stores. Of course, there are many thrift stores that don’t support charities, but they’re no less legitimate; they are still promoting reuse, which is good.
Many thrift stores do benefit from great acts of charity from people who are moving or downsizing the “stuff” in their house. But most of the time, people just dump whatever they don’t want on these stores. And there's a lot that's purely junk. The employees there are often forced to sift through to separate the trash from treasure. Sometimes, they don’t, of course, and navigating the store’s wares becomes a sort of treasure hunt.
Of course, isn’t the sifting through the chaff part of the fun? The point is, you’ll always have donated junk. But it seems like junk is becoming the majority of what’s being donated. We need more quality donations.
Things like baby clothes and maternal clothes are well-known items that make fantastic bargains at thrift stores. Heck, there are people that buy them from thrift shops and sell them on EBay! Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not! Selling people things that they need at a discounted price is still excellent, especially if their local thrift shop either doesn’t have those things, or they don’t happen to have one.
What I’m saying is that the perception that I’m seeing on Google is that people want to figure out how to game the system to profit the most from it. It’s important to remember that we must sustain these types of stores. In that case, knowing what people need most at a bargain is good to know, but we need to make sure that enough supply remains in the stores themselves.
As it turns out, there is often no need to buy new for most things. As many thrifting guides will point out, there are plenty of things out there that have certain novelty factors to them and many of them end up at thrift stores. Once you’ve gotten one or two uses out of them, they’re often thrown to the back of closets or thrown in some pile in the basement or attic (or both!)
If people were more open to donating the items they didn’t need, think of how thrift stores would flourish. Not only are you helping charities, but you are helping low-income families make ends meet by giving them valuable items at deeply discounted prices that are often very lightly used, or well-used but still functional. You’re also saving other people a lot of money.
Yes, there are those sorts of “thrift” stores that sell actually new merchandise at discounted prices because of overstock, liquidation sales, or because they have been otherwise “misplaced.” Those are sort of different. There is another kind of thrift store in my own hometown called Chic 2 Chic, which also has a thrift shop version, Chic 2 Charity.
At Chic 2 Chic, they take donations of designer items. Some of them have never been worn. It’s also a sort of consignment boutique where donators can actually make some money if the item sells. It’s a cool concept. I’ve never been much for designer brands, but from what I hear, the prices are definitely low.
That being said, I don’t think there should be any stigma about shopping at thrift stores, especially with all of the specialty sorts of thrift stores popping up. But despite the good stuff that Chic 2 Chic is doing, making nice clothes available for cheap, I think the classic general thrift stores need more help than ever, especially in our current economy.
If each household in the United States donated one item a week to their local thrift store, you’d be amazed at how much stuff we keep in our homes that we really don’t need. You don’t have to actually go down there. Put one item aside a week and after a few months, you may be surprised just how much you have to give.
We need to start giving more away and stop spending our money on things for simple novelty reasons. And if we really don’t need or want something that we can’t return, donate it, don’t throw it away. There’s a reason dumpster diving has become such a huge thing today. People throw away a lot of useful things.
I’d like reach out to everyone reading and ask if you have anything that you don’t use anymore that you could let go. As long as it’s still usable and in decent condition, I urge you to donate it to your local thrift store. If you can get a charitable tax deduction for it, that’s excellent.
I’m just sad with seeing thrift stores fail because the majority of people that shop these days at many thrift stores are bargain-hunters looking to buy out all of the valuable items. This doesn’t allow the low-income families that need the stores to carry things that they need to buy them.
What do you have to donate today? Chances are, if you get people to donate just little things here and there, thrift stores could actually thrive even more than they already do.
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