Secondhand is quickly becoming the new way to shop and save


Stay away from generic brands at thrift shops one expert says

Thank you, inflation! Your grubby little hands have created a big fat crop of shoppers who are all in on buying and/or selling secondhand goods – 85% of shoppers in fact.

And according to a recent study, that sector is about to get hotter. In the past year, 27% of respondents to OfferUp’s Recommerce report bought and/or sold secondhand items for the first time.

"Our 2023 consumer survey reveals that 76% of shoppers say the stigma around secondhand shopping has decreased, citing more affordable options (57%), changing societal attitudes towards consumption and waste (55%), and increased availability and variety of secondhand items (54%),” Ken Murphy, senior vice president at OfferUp said.

And this holiday season, this trend is primed to put the hurt on a lot of retailers. According to a holiday gift shopping analysis by MorningConsult, 38% of the general population say they’ll “definitely” or “probably” buy gifts secondhand, a number that rises to 46% among those feeling the brunt of financial stress. And gift recipients seem to be cool with it, too, as long as it’s something they’d appreciate… and it’s wrapped nicely

However, secondhand shopping isn’t the same as it used to be. Goodwill 2023 isn’t Goodwill 2013 and we’re far removed from scoring Nirvana t-shirts for a quarter or stuff all we could in a brown paper sack for $5. And there’s a whole new, uneducated generation of shoppers ready to try the market.

Online secondhand shopping mecca Beni’s CEO and co-founder, Sarah Pinner told ConsumerAffairs that she’s had multiple conversations about the opportunity for shoppers to save money and gift sustainably by purchasing items through resale.

“Often quoted was the research finding from Poshmark that 92% of people are open to receiving secondhand gifts, but 30% have ever bought a gift through resale,” she said.

To find out what the secondhand scene is like today and how shoppers can gain an advantage, ConsumerAffairs reached out to many shopping experts and secondhand shop owners and their original insights may help your dollar go even further.

It’s easier and simpler than it seems 

Pinner said that many of the folks who are skittish about dipping their toe in the secondhand market water think it's too difficult or time-consuming to find what they’re looking for.

“Oftentimes they’re shopping for a lot of people on top of everything else that's going on in their life, so trying to find that really awesome, unique gift via resale seemingly requires too much effort and people default to buying brand new,” she said.  

“[But], what they don’t realize is that resale is actually an awesome way to level up gift-giving while staying within a budget. For example, take a classic gift like the Patagonia Nano Puff jacket that retails for $239. We’ve seen resale versions of this exact same jacket in our database for $49. By buying the jacket secondhand instead of new, you can stretch your budget nearly 5 times."

Value over price

When you’re slagging through the racks and racks of clothes at a secondhand store, what’s the one thing that will most surely give you the best return on your investment?

Carmen Lopez, a retail business expert and founder of Current Boutique, a national designer secondhand and vintage business, told ConsumerAffairs that you need to pay attention to quality and condition.

“Price is a driving factor for many secondhand shoppers, but the key factor you should be aware of is value,” she insists. "Spending $20 on a fast fashion shirt you can wear twice isn’t a solid investment compared to an $80 high-quality Kate Spade shirt you can wear for the next five to ten years."

Stay away from generic brands at thrift stores one expert says

On a recent shopping trip to Goodwill, money-saving expert Andrea Woroch said she found a pair of Target's Cat & Jack brand leggings that were perfect for her daughter but was astonished at the $4 price tag. 

“These retail for $6 brand new at Target but they routinely host sales of 20% to 30% off which means, I could get a brand new pair for around the same price of this used pair. This goes for any clothing from Walmart Brands, Old Navy and similar stores,” she said. “Therefore, you're better off waiting until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to see big discounts on clothing from Target, Walmart, Old Navy and Gap.”

Ever thought about swapping? 

Here’s an interesting concept…

Woroch told ConsumerAffairs about SwoondleSociety, a platform where parents can trade their kid's outgrown or unwanted clothing, shoes, and accessories. 

As she explained the concept, you will get points depending on the brand level which can be used to swap for like new -- and sometimes brand new -- clothing. There's a small trade fee per item or sign up for a membership to get a better value.

But, in the end, trading your children's clothing allows you to use the value of the items you already own as your buying power and you probably have better access to the things you want vs. the things that are either meh or maybe.

Does your purchase make a difference for others?

Some secondhand clotheshorses might only be in this for themselves, but since a good number of secondhand stores have charity ties, taking some time to consider where your dollar goes, who it helps, and what it helps, should be given its due, too. 

Janet Curran, owner/founder of DoGoodCo, a vintage luxury resale shop in Kansas City advocates that consumers take some time to consider those factors. 

“While shopping at a charity secondhand clothing store, remember that every purchase supports a cause,” she said. “To find out who benefits, ask the staff, scout out their website, or read the signage in the store — they'll guide you to the heart behind the hanger."

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