by Theola Malin
Between minimum wage jobs and the high cost of books and other living expenses, it is hard for college students to find gifts for their loved ones. I, like many other college students, want to be able to give gifts to the people I love. With my limited budget, I had to find ways to be able to get everyone something for the holidays without going into debt. In my first year of college, I discovered economical holiday shopping through thrift and consignment stores. Thrift shops offered great quality clothes from brands that I could normally never afford.
History of thrift shops
Second-hand shops existed in England long before thrift shops were invented. Oftentimes churches would run rummage sales to raise money for the church and for other charitable causes. Erin Blakemore for Jstor Daily writes that in 1897, the Salvation Army stepped in with a “salvage brigade that offered poor men food and shelter in exchange for collecting scrap paper and other castoffs.” This was where the idea for thrift shops started—take old items and refurbish them for a reduced price so those less fortunate could afford necessities like clothes, furniture, etc. These shops were often looked down upon. People would call the Salvation Army “junk dealers.” However, these stores taught people with lower incomes how to shop.
There is a newfound interest in thrift shops as people begin to notice how beneficial they are.
According to The Association of Resale Professionals (NARTS), “With new stores entering the industry and current establishments opening additional locations, the industry has experienced a growth—in number of stores—of approximately 7% a year for the past two years.”
The popularity of thrift stores is growing exponentially. Thrift shops are less stigmatized because more people are realizing that they can get great quality clothes for amazing prices. Elijah Farrar, a student at William Paterson University, explained how he found this Banana Republic cashmere sweater with a retail price of $79.50 at a local thrift shop for less than $20. He was able to make this a great gift for his mother that he wouldn’t have otherwise be able to afford.
Power of the consumer
Blakemore states, “…arguments for thrift shopping include environmental friendliness and even refusing to participate in a consumer system built on fast fashion, sweatshop labor and unfair labor practices.”
Consumers have so much power because they are the ones that are fueling the businesses. Without the consumer, there is no business. There are an increasing number of people taking their money to thrift shops instead of corporate businesses. Instead of funding businesses that benefit from cheap labor overseas, they consumers are supporting thrift shops like GoodWill, who have a direct connection to the Salvation Army.
Thrifting: Environmentally friendly shopping
There are so many benefits to shopping second hand. It is good for humanity because it supports small business and nonprofits. It also stops clothes from getting thrown away in landfills, thereby supporting the environment.
According to a report from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, which supports a circular economy, “An estimated USD 500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing that’s barely worn and rarely recycled.”
With more statistics like this being brought to consumer attention, people are more motivated to donate and recycle their clothing. When people are aware of how much they may be wasting, many will start to reconsider where they get their clothes and decide what they want to do with items they no longer use. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
In a Mind Key article on upcycling, Danielle Rose writes, “Saving items from the trash gives intriguing or sentimental items a second life, while giving us a second chance to appreciate something we would otherwise have had to let go.”
After collecting and wearing vintage clothing since the age of seven, Miss Masters opened her Miss Master’s Closet brick-and-mortar shop in 2011. But these days Miss Master’s Closet sells exclusively online via eBay and Etsy. Masters believes in the charms of vintage shopping as a way to combat the plights of our environment.
“When you shop vintage, not only do you look great, but you feel fabulous knowing you’re making the choice to be environmentally-friendly,” she said.
Thrift shops will often times have lost treasures, or styles of clothing that you cannot find anymore. Styles go through cycles, and thrift shops are helping to continue the cycle.
Thrifty holiday shopping: Your guide
Are you interested in finding your own favorite thrift shop? Here are our picks.
Miss Masters Closet
Originally based out of New York, Miss Masters Closet is selling exclusively online now.
Find Miss Masters on Ebay
Those near Newport, RI can always find great deals at the following consignment and thrift stores:
Consignment & Vintage Boutique
30 Broadway, Newport, RI
St. Paul’s Thrift Shop
A nonprofit thrift store on bustling upper Broadway. All proceeds help support the McKinney Homeless Shelter. Men and Women’s Clothing. Housewares. Furniture. Books. New Mattresses. Friendly Staff. Free Parking.
326 Broadway, Newport, RI
Vintage to Vogue
Vintage jewelry, hats, shoes, accessories, clothing and more.
489 Thames St., Newport, RI
When in doubt, always look for your local Salvation Army!
Salvation Army Store, Newport
76 Broadway, Newport, RI
Do you have a favorite thrift or consignment store? Give them a shout out in the comments! If we connect with your store, we’ll let you know!