Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Secondhand News: An Encore magazine cover story

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Encore Magazine
March 2014 Issue

Green’ and thrifty shoppers fuel growth of resale stores

 By Zinta Aistars
Photos by Erik Holladay
Thrift stores, secondhand stores, vintage stores. Call them what you will, but stores selling gently used items — from clothes and furniture to children’s gear and building materials — are popping up everywhere.  In Kalamazoo alone, an Internet search will turn up nearly 50 listings of secondhand stores, from shops that sell items on consignment to those that sell donated goods.
Click image to go to the article in our digital edition.
Click image to go to the article in our digital edition.
And this trend is happening not just in Southwest Michigan but nationally. According to the Association of Resale Professionals, the business of selling secondhand goods has become a $13-billion-a-year industry in the U.S., expanding about 7 percent per year over the last two years and attracting shoppers from all economic levels. According to America’s Research Group, a consumer research firm, about 16 to 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year, and 12 to 15 percent will shop at consignment or other resale shops. That’s compared to 19.3 percent who shop at retail clothing stores and 21.3 percent who shop at major department stores.
To define terms, a thrift shop is run by a not-for-profit organization and takes donations to fund charitable causes; a consignment shop pays the owners of the merchandise a percentage if and when the items are sold; other resale shops buy merchandise from individual owners to resell.
So, what’s driving the demand for secondhand stores?  On one hand, hard economic times have forced many people to find bargains where they can. On the other, generations have grown up on the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra and may just be exercising their ‘green’ philosophy.
“I’d say it’s a little of both trends,” says Lauren Worgess, owner of Loved Boutique, an upscale clothing resale shop at 116 W. South St., in Kalamazoo. “I’d definitely factor in the green aspect, but our clientele is very price-savvy.”
Clothing Connection's Janice Penny, dressed in a vintage dress and hat, laughs whither mother and co-owner Barbara Howard.
Clothing Connection’s Janice Penny, dressed in a vintage dress and hat, laughs whither mother and co-owner Barbara Howard.
Thrift stores and other resale stores are not a new concept. What is new, however, is the rise of the thrift store shopper. “There was a stigma that’s been disappearing as thrift shops become more boutique-y,” says Michael Gold, founder of TheThriftShopper.com, a Vero Beach, Fla.-based directory of charity-based secondhand stores.
On consignment
Among those “boutique-y” shops are local stores such as Loved and Clothing Connection that specialize in selling clothes on consignment. Typically, most consignment stores offer 40 to 50 percent of the sale price to the consignor. Most also have criteria for clothing being seasonal, clean and without any stains or tears or odors such as cigarette smoke while offering discounted prices to customers the longer the item has been on the rack. Often, items remaining unsold after a given time, usually around 90 days, are donated to area charities.
Loved is one of those shops. “We focus on higher-end brands,” says Worgess, who stocks items from consignors not only from Kalamazoo, but from across the country, especially the Los Angeles area, where she has shopped herself.
“They wear a designer outfit once, and they’re done with it. We may carry a Ralph Lauren dress from such a consignor that cost $1,600, but we cut the price by 50 or 60 percent,” she says.
Christy Lansom's furniture consignment store, Christy's is moving to a larger location next month.
Christy Lansom’s furniture consignment store, Christy’s is moving to a larger location next month.
Worgess’ clientele ranges widely, from the college student looking for a special-occasion outfit on the cheap to the downtown professional woman shopping for a business suit at a savings. Loved recently stopped selling men’s clothing because ... READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE

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