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Drift to thrift: Resale becoming the new normal for shoppers

September 22, 2018

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — An oversized nylon retro Adidas jacket sells for about $70 online. Collective Clothing on Frazier Avenue has it for $35.

Some shoppers may sniff at the jacket’s “used” status, but plenty of others will focus on its half-price tag as a meaningful way to stretch their dollars.

Collective Clothing owners Travis and Sondra Aten have been in the resale business for a decade and on Frazier Avenue for the past three years. Business is on the upswing, says Travis Aten, which mirrors a national trend for secondhand shops.

According to a 2018 Resale Report by ThredUp, an online consignment and thrift store, resale is growing 24 times faster than retail in the U.S. The research anticipates the resale market will reach $41 billion by 2022.

“People are trying to save money,” says Tia Taylor-Clark, thrift-store shopper and local business owner. “They’re finding out that the resale store is not shabby. It’s the same stuff you get at the mall at a cheaper price.”

She shopped at Pop’s and Grannie’s Thrift Store on Wilcox Boulevard before a recent trip to Barbados. She bought two bags of clothes, including a new swimsuit and sandals, for $20, she says.

Professionals shop at thrift stores not just for the bargains but because they like the clothes, she says.

According to the ThredUp report, 13 percent of the most active thrifters are millionaires. The stigma of resale shops offering less than the best clothing is gone. Thrift is going mainstream.

“Every six months, my sales increase,” says Misty Ward Craig, owner of two longtime semiannual consignment sales in Chattanooga. Sweet WeePeets, which trades in children’s clothing and toys, was held last week. Sweet Seconds, which offers apparel and accessories for women, men and juniors, as well as home decor, starts Saturday at 6246 Dayton Blvd. The sale includes merchandise from designers including Coach, Dooney & Bourke and Vera Bradley at 50 percent to 90 percent off retail prices, she says.

The Sweet WeePeets and Sweet Seconds sales rely on consignors, who make 70 percent of the selling price on each item sold, minus a $10 consignor fee. Consignors who volunteer to help at the sale can make up to 75 percent on each item sold and the consignor fee is waived.

Likewise, some resale shops compensate patrons who bring in their unwanted designer clothes.

Prior Attire in Cleveland, Tennessee, promises up to 70 percent of the sale price for consignors of luxury-label clothes, shoes and accessories such as Chanel handbags.

Plato’s Closet and Style Encore, sister stores near Hamilton Place mall, buy and sell clothing, shoes and accessories considered “next to new” and in current styles. Plato’s Closet specializes in brand names targeting teens and young adults (think Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle and Aeropostale). Style Encore focuses on women who have aged out of Plato’s Closet. The stores offer up to 90 percent of retail prices and the opportunity to get cash on the spot when patrons sell merchandise to them. Depending on the season and current styles, not every item offered is accepted.

The acceptance policy is more relaxed at thrift stores, which rely on donations, but the upswing in business is similar.

Northside Neighborhood House’s resale store has had such an increase in customers that it extended its Saturday hours this summer from 3 until 6 p.m. The store had 55,152 customers in 2016. The count increased to 62,606 customers in 2017.

Chief Development Officer Brianne Lalor says revenue increased from about $700,000 in 2016 to $800,000 in 2017. All money earned goes toward helping people in the North Chattanooga meet basic needs like food, shelter and clothing.

Its racks often include such brand names as The North Face, Patagonia and Chaco.

Aten, of Collective Clothing, believes deep discounts and rare finds draw customers to consignment shops and thrift stores.

“We have a lot of really everyday pieces and really obscure things,” he says of his stock, while taking photos of the old-school 1990s Adidas jacket to post online. “You can buy one-of-a-kind things. Not everybody is going to have it.”

When customer Zach Plating walks in the store, he wastes no time selecting his find.

“The Levi jacket in the window,” he says when Aten asks if he needs help.

Plating says he plans to give the vintage jacket as a gift to his wife.

He says shopping at thrift stores isn’t always about finding the cheapest price. Thrift stores offer the opportunity “to accentuate your individual style.”

“In retail shops, there’s not a lot of room for individuality,” says Plating. “They’re regurgitating the same trends over and over again. At a vintage shop, even if you don’t find anything, there’s still the thrill of searching for something that you didn’t know you wanted.”

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Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com

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