Buying gently used clothing has become trendy, thanks to young adults and the pandemic. A culture has built up around finding your wardrobe at Goodwill, Savers, Salvation Army, flea markets, and a host of other brick-and-mortar second-hand stores, or online sites dedicated to recycled clothing. It is a way to add pieces to perk up your basics without spending an arm and a leg. You can get expensive items for a fraction of the retail price. And then there’s that added element: the thrill of the hunt.
According to a recent study commissioned by online resale platform ThredUp, it’s a $36 billion market in the U.S. today, and expected to reach $77 billion in five years, eclipsing the growth in the broader retail sector 11 times over. One in five Americans shops at a thrift store in a given year — about the same number as those who go to a major department store.
“Having a young family where the kids are constantly outgrowing their clothes, thrift stores are a blessing,” says mom Beth Jarvie. “There is also now the awareness of conservation of resources, keeping your environmental footprint small, and upcycling durable goods.” According to the ThredUp study, younger shoppers are far more concerned with the environmental impact of clothing than their grandparents.
The apparel and footwear industry accounts for about 10% of climate impact, which is more than the combined effect of every international flight and all maritime shipping, combined.
Keenly aware of clothing’s impact, college student Grace Snelling says, “I’ve kind of stopped buying clothes from traditional stores. People almost respect you if what you’re wearing is thrifted, and it looks good because you’ve managed to pull off a cool outfit, and it’s sustainable.”
What’s In It for Older Adults
Thrift stores are a goldmine of clothing for grandchildren, and it’s priced right for people on a fixed income. You may find jeans or a gorgeous dress for your granddaughter for around $5. Bikes, toys, crafts — they can all be thrifted.
Switching to a fake Christmas tree? Shop your local thrift store and get it for a quarter of the retail price. Need some new dinnerware or kitchen tools? How about an edger for the lawn? Halloween costume? The nice thing about thrift stores vs. garage sales is that the thrift store will have a huge array of items in one stop. Most also have a senior day once a week when items are marked down for adults over a certain age.
Another fun find is books, which seldom cost more than a dollar or two. How fun to bring over a basket of books for little grandkids or choose a few interesting reads for yourself. Invite a friend to accompany you for more fun and to get a second opinion on whether or not you should buy the jeans with the giant sparkle pockets.
Have you ever bought a used item on the internet? Hundreds of thousands of items are all available at any one time, from a vintage wool Norwegian sweater to a leather Harley Davidson jacket. Sites like eBay, ThredUp, Poshmark and the RealReal offer buyers the chance to find bargains galore. You can pay the stated price, make an offer to the seller, or bid in auctions where gorgeous clothing sometimes gets sold for a ridiculously low price. By the way, don’t forget to look for jewelry and shoes or boots. How about a fun pair of cowboy boots for $20 instead of $200? You don’t have to give up your favorite brands to thrift; they’re not this season’s goods, but they’re a whole lot cheaper!
Be prepared to model your latest finds for older grandchildren, who will applaud your style and your savvy. They may even ask to go on your next thrifting trip!