Secondhand stores have become retro-chic, and even has its own accompanying theme, the mega-hit, "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
There was always a market for used goods and clothing, but years ago, it wasn't considered trendy at all; you simply went 'on the sly' and never mentioned exactly where you got your "new" outfits or furniture. You would automatically be branded as 'super-poor' and sometimes treated as such (I once told a co-worker where I got my outfit upon being complimented by her; I got a funny look and total silence for a couple of minutes. The very next day, that co-worker came in with a giant box of clothes, shoes, socks, you name it. A couple of her daughters had outgrown the contents and she figured I needed immediate help! (I was fine). I was more surprised than being mad or upset about it; I simply thanked her and took the box home. As it turned out, there were actually several nice items within. And I probably am still wearing most of them!).
But since then, attitudes have been changing about buying used clothing and other previously owned items.
There's now even a term for a committed shopper who buys most (if not all) of their personal and professional wardrobes from used clothing stores, "thrifters." And there are three main motivations: Environmental, to save money and simply for the thrill (and fun) of finding that unique or one-of-a-kind item.
Thrifting is also a way to prevent "fast fashion knockoffs," those inexpensive, trendy clothes produced in overseas factories.
The recent recession and overall state of the economy has created a boom in the used goods industry; many shops are even becoming more like boutiques.
According to First Research (which profiles US industries), in 2012, secondhand stores, thrift shops and other resale places racked up $13 billion (!) in annual revenue. And the National Association of Resale Professionals has projected a 7% annual growth in the number of consignment and secondhand stores, estimated at 25,000.
Thrift shopping can even be done online: eBay is a classic example and an Internet pioneer in this field.
Here's a look at a few others
:www.ThredUP.com was initially launched in San Francisco as an online consignment store for designer-brand used kids' clothing; women's apparel was recently added to its lineup. A free bag is sent to you; you then stuff it with clothes and ship off. ThredUP then evaluates each item, usually paying 40% of any resale cost. You can take cash or shop at the online store, Benefits Teach for America.
Poshmark is an iPhone app that allows women to shop post shoes, handbags and clothes they want to sell. They also host real-time auctions. Sellers receive a prepaid shopping label; Poshmark takes 20 percent commission.
www.TheThriftShopper.com maintains a national directory of more than 11,000 charity-driven secondhand and consignment stores, ranging from small shops to thrift legends like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Just type in a zip code or city and state to find the stores nearest you.
www.RehashClothes.com-This exchange site is designed for students, allowing them to swap accessories, textbooks and clothing. They can post photos of their items and search for things they want. Shipping terms are negotiated between the student seller and other student traders.
Secondhand clothes can also be "refashioned;" creative, sewing skills-savvy artists buy used apparel that's then snipped and resewn into "new" garments (for example, fabrics can be recrafted into tops, skirts or even tunics).
Launched in 2012 (during November's Black Friday shopping weekend) by Andy Ruben (former Head of Sustainability at WalMart Stores Inc.) and Adam Werbach (an environmentalist), www.Yerdle.com is a website that offers 'underused' goods by its members (like clothing, electronics and even musical instruments) to friends and acquaintances for free (yes, free).
Yerdle is one of the newest examples of what's known as collective consumerism (also known as circular or sharing economy ).
Instead of trying to reduce a product's environmental footprint from the production side by making it with less material, advocates (especially of clothing and shoe companies) are trying to extend that product's usefulness on the consumer end by reusing or repurposing the particular item.
Critics of collective consumerism say that it encourages "green washing," a phenomenon in which companies claim to be eco-friendly, but ultimately end up contributing the same amount of-or even more-waste as their peers.
But despite its detractors, collective consumerism has gained momentum as more companies tout quality over quantity in the midst of rising textile prices and fast-fashion fatigue.
A few examples include: Hello Rewind, a retailer that sells goods and products reworked from discarded scraps; Nike Inc.'s Reuse-a-Shoe program (23 years operating, so far) that has turned 28 million pairs of used athletic footwear into coating for playing courts, running tracks and other sports surfaces; and H & M's Long Live Fashion program (started this year), which gives customers a 15% off-voucher for each bag of old (and used) clothing brought into company stores. Garments that are too threadbare or 'worn out' to wear again are reincarnated as new material, like carpet padding and insulation. Used clothing that's still in good or excellent condition are sent abroad as secondhand goods.
Worn-out fabrics and unwanted scraps are being used by some companies to create products that improve on the original; this concept is known as "recycling."
Did You Know That.....
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 26 billion pounds of apparel, textiles and footwear are thrown out by Americans each year (The 'trash' increased 40 percent from 1999 to 2009 and is expected to increase again by another 40 percent by 2019)!
And in spite of any store discounts or incentives (like the abovementioned examples), 64% of Americans do not want to drive more than five miles to drop off their used clothing or shoes, according to USAgain (a recycling textile company itself).
Sources: "Secondhand shops thrive in recession"-The Sacramento Bee-The (Sunday) Vindicator, Aug. 11, 2013, and "A new philosophy: Reuse, remake and refrain"-Los Angeles Times-The (Sunday) Vindicator, July 14, 2013