Thrift store owners prepare for wave of holiday shoppers as secondhand gifts become less taboo
Resale experts say 49% of Americans will shop at secondhand stores this holiday season
The stigma behind giving a previously owned gift is going away. With more people out of work during the pandemic, many turned to thrifting.
It's now a habit that's shifting to gifting.
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"The past two years have shown me that people really are looking for alternatives to big box stores and higher prices," said Eric Sylvester, the store manager of Bridge House, a popular thrift store in New Orleans.
A survey from the resale company, ThredUp found that nearly half (49%) of Americans will shop at secondhand retailers this holiday season.
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Sylvester says Black Friday is usually a "hit or miss" at his thrift store, but this year, he says the store was packed through the weekend.
"My customer counts have been about twice what they normally were before the end of the year and that's really good for us," Sylvester said.
It's not just an economical choice. ThredUp's survey found that 53% of shoppers are also worried about shipping delays.
While supply chain issues threaten online shopping and the inventory at department stores, consignment shops stay stocked with donations.
"Our community has really stepped up for us by providing donations to help us meet our need," Sylvester said.
Longtime thrifter Ahmad Jabari says the thrift store is a "hidden gem."
"Everything in the thrift store is not old; everything in the thrift store is not damaged," said Jabari. "There are great finds in the thrift store."
Jabari says he recently bought an Omega watch for $3.95 at a thrift store. It was valued at $1700.
"That's how powerful the thrift store is," Jabari added.
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Other shoppers say buying secondhand not only helps the environment, but the gifts can be more meaningful.
"With thrifting, you can find a lot cooler, more unique pieces," said shopper Amaya Jacques. "Spending time going through clothes is a lot more meaningful to me than buying something quickly online. Fashion is also going towards a more sustainable route."
Resale experts say GenZ is driving the thrifting trend as they are becoming more conscious of their ecological footprint.
Many thrift stores are also connected to a charity or non-profit organization which allows shoppers to feel good about contributing to a cause when they make a purchase.
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At Bridge House Thrift Store in New Orleans, 100% of the proceeds go towards supporting rehab treatment for men and women struggling with alcohol or drug addiction.
"I would encourage anyone who might not be able to afford what they usually buy for gifts this holiday season, to give the thrift store a chance," Jabari said. "This is how you can still bless someone."