Heather Alexander, Goodwill marketing director
“Part of the popularity is that it’s now cool to shop secondhand; it’s cool to use the most of your money to be a good shopper. Younger shoppers aren’t shy to say, ‘I got this purse at a thrift store and at this amazing price.’ It’s almost like bragging rights.”
LIKE MOST COLLEGE STUDENTS, Jasmine Waldo is on a tight budget. Despite her slim spending allowances, however, Waldo loves to shop.
That’s what makes thrift stores the perfect target for Waldo, a 19-year-old art student at North Idaho College. The appeal of secondhand stores, she says, is not just the low prices. It also fulfills her pursuit of products that are not mass produced.
“If you go to Target and get a tank top, there’s like 20 others that are the same exact one,” says Waldo, of Coeur d’Alene. “So part of my interest in thrift shopping is the originality, but it’s also about the price.”
Waldo is not alone in her desire to shop thriftily. Particularly in the younger age demographic, secondhand stores are becoming increasingly popular.
About 20 percent of people in 2016 said they shop in thrift stores regularly, compared with about 14 percent in 2008, according to the Association of Resale Professionals.
Much of the recent growth can be attributed to young shoppers, many of whom are passing on trips to the mall in favor of great deals and the uniqueness of merchandise offered at thrift stores.
Often for pennies on the dollar, thrift store shoppers can swipe up big bargains on merchandise in settings that are no longer met with the stereotypical musty, dusty, cluttered secondhand stores of the past.
That’s what attracts Waldo, who says she visits thrift shops in the Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls area at least a couple times a month. And it’s not just for clothes—which are the hottest seller at hand-me-down stores.
“I’ve gotten a lot of things like furniture, bed frames and stuff that would be super-expensive retail,” she says. “I also buy pots and pans, cups, cute decorations … things like that.”
Waldo estimates she saves a couple hundred dollars every few months by shopping at Coeur d’Alene thrift stores like St. Vincent DePaul, Goodwill, the Hospice Thrift Store and Idaho Youth Ranch.
The thrifty college student says she learned the value of second-hand shopping from her parents.
“They always shopped at thrift stores and my mother always told me that when I was a college student thrift stores were going to be the best place for clothes and furniture and house stuff,” she says. “And I guess I’m living that truth right now.”
Heather Alexander, senior director of marketing for Goodwill stores serving North Idaho and eastern Washington, agrees thrift store shopping has become trendier among the younger crowd in recent years since the recession.
“Particularly within the last five or so years it has become more acceptable and in some ways even hip to shop resale—people really like to get a good deal and I think part of the trend turned when economy got so tight,” Alexander says.
And there has been a noticeable difference in the clientele.
“We’ve seen a shift where you now have younger shoppers coming in,” she says. “Part of the popularity is that it’s now cool now to shop second hand; it’s cool to use the most of your money to be a good shopper. Younger shoppers aren’t shy to say, ‘I got this purse at a thrift store and at this amazing price’, it’s almost like bragging rights.”
And an increasingly “green” society is also helping boost thrift store sales—particularly with the younger crowd, Alexander says.
“Shopping secondhand aligns with that model of making decisions that are environmentally conscious, so that’s something that is attractive to a younger demographic,” she says.
HELPING GOOD CAUSES
Aside from offering great deals and unique items, thrift stores offer another value. Most donate their proceeds to charitable causes like transitional housing, employment opportunities and providing support to people with disabilities.
At St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho in Coeur d’Alene, executive director Jeff Conway says sales jumped after the recession but have been relatively flat in recent years, increasing by about 2 percent annually.
He is, however, also seeing a growth in younger clientele.
“The demographic has changed, and we’re seeing more college-aged students,” he says. “They’re not spending as much, because they’re into bargains and a good deal. It’s a new and growing (clientele) base.
Like Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul provides funding to a wide variety of causes, including transitional housing, rental assistance, help with utility bills and necessities for the less fortunate, including diapers and baby formula for young families.
“We’re here to help to those who need it,” Conway says. “That’s what we’re all about.”