Thrift Stores Attract A New Kind Of Customer

By: Zoe Brawner

Ben Miller, a forty-two year old and father of three, walks into Agora, a local consignment store located downtown in Athens, Georgia and starts to explore the store. He looks up at the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, thumbs through old records, and leaves the store with several great nostalgic finds.

Miller is an example of the new type of customer that second hand shops and thrift shops see on a national level. Instead of a young crowd interested in vintage clothing and items, Airee Hong, the proud owner of Agora, says the customer base has changed.

“It’s not just young people now, because before vintage was all about young people really into vintage but now their moms are into vintage, their grandmas, everybody’s into it, even their fathers. Everybody’s into vintage because its like so different and unique and they’re getting into it. So the kids like you would take their parents into these stores and now they’re the ones coming into the stores so they are following that trend. Its all ages, not just a young thing anymore.”

This influx in consignment shops and thrift shops has led these businesses to thrive in such a thrifty era. The recession spurred growth in these types of shops. According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Stores, data shows a record number of 15,000 resale shops open, an increase from 13,000 one year ago. The industry has experienced a 7% growth in the number of stores for each of the past two years. Today there are more than 30,000 resale, consignment and thrift shops in the U.S.

Some would even say that retro is the new black. The stigma to shop in a second hand store today has gone away. Shoppers are no longer embarrassed about shopping in these stores. Ben Garrett, the store manager at Dynamite, understands the demand to shop in thrift stores occurs now for a variety of reasons including cheaper prices but resale shops are also consistent with reduce, reuse and recycle.

“I will say though going back to people being more comfortable coming into these places, some of the older women that you find that come in here it is no longer a shunned thing. It’s okay to buy something that’s been worn. Especially for us and over at Agora everything is looked over, everything is gone through and priced accordingly. So if you can get an amazing leather jacket from the 70s and feel like an 18 year old again, why not?”

The location of a resale shop is critical to its success or failure. Geometrx explains that there is a recent industry trend for resale shop owners to establish their shops in locations with greater foot traffic as well as those that are clustered near similar businesses.

Dave Wolfe has been the owner of the resale shop Minx for seventeen years. In Wolfe’s opinion, when resale shops are in a college town they should be as close to the gates of the college as possible. Wolfe stated that because of the short attention span of college aged people, retail stores compete to gain the interest of thousands of people.

As the United States continues to cut the government budget to tackle the debt crisis, individual Americans tighten what they spend their money on as well. In an article from the Wall Street Journal, journalist Sam Schechner quotes Daphne Kasriel, a consumer-trends analyst at Euromonitor,

“Worries about money are chipping away at consumer loyalty to brands. This thrift mindset is here to stay.”

Consumers no longer show austerity when they shop. Thrifting is not just for penny-pinching grandmas anymore, it is a trend that has lost its negative stigma and benefits both the consumer and economy today.