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Thrift Shopping on the Rise

Thrift shopping hit a record high in 2018 and is projected to keep growing in popularity. People are buying second hand because it is cheap, it helps the environment, it does not support the unethical practices of fast fashion brands, and thrift stores help communities. The second-hand shopping industry reached a record high of $24 billion in 2018. Sales have been on a steady climb from $11 billion in 2012 and are projected to reach $51 billion by 2023 according to ThreadUp, the leading online resale company. The modern-day ‘thrift shop’ is a relatively new concept which emerged after the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840). Until the past few decades, most people had only a few articles of clothing and used them for as long as they could. As clothing became more mass-produced, it became more affordable. This allowed people to buy more clothes and get rid of clothes they did not want, therefore creating a market for thrift shops. In 1879, The Salvation Army came to the US and in 1902, Goodwill was founded. In 1919, the term “thrift shop” was coined and the 1920s saw the rise of consumerism. During the Great Depression (1929-1941), Goodwill opened almost 100 stores. In 1995, eBay and Craigslist were founded. During the Great Recession (2007-2009), resale stores saw sales increase 35 percent. Time Magazine writer Olivia Waxman, said when thrift shops first came out, “there was a stigma attached to wearing used clothes… The items themselves [were] a sign of a lack of money.” Perceptions of thrift shopping have changed. Now people of all socioeconomic classes shop second-hand. According to ThredUp, luxury shoppers buy second-hand more than value chain shoppers do. In 2018, 26 percent of women either bought or were willing to buy second-hand. Thrift shopping is gaining popularity fastest among Millennials and Gen Z. According to ThreadUp, 18-37 year olds are adopting second-hand apparel 2.5 times faster than other age groups. “It’s cheaper and it leaves less of a carbon footprint,” said Spring Arbor University Student, Celeste Fendt. Kaylee Clayton, another SAU student said she buys second-hand clothing because it is good for the environment. It creates less demand for clothes. “Just one shirt takes more than 700 gallons of water to make,” said Clayton. Buying second-hand is also good because “you’re not creating demand for or supporting companies that use bad practices like human trafficking, poor treatment of workers, and hazardous working conditions,” said Clayton. Thrift shopping reuses garments instead of throwing them out, reducing the amount of textile waste produced. According to, the average American throws out about 82 pounds of textile waste each year, most of which ends up in landfills where it produces toxic greenhouse gasses as it decomposes causing global warming. Most thrift stores also give to charity and help the community. Resale Depot gives all of its profits to local Christian ministries and church plants. In 2018, we gave away over $70,000. We also partner with local charities to provide job training, donate items to people in need, and recycle hundreds of items daily.


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