By: Tori Harris
Most of my weekend mornings are spent the same way. I wake up around 9:00 a.m., cuddle with my cat for 20 minutes (or until she runs away), get ready for the day and head to one of my favorite thrift stores.
Thrift shopping was a hobby of mine long before Macklemore released his “Thrift Shop” hit, but over the past few years, it has also become something of a side business. About four years ago, I started selling my finds on mobile apps such as Poshmark, Mercari and eBay. These apps provide a platform for individuals to sell new or used clothes, jewelry, beauty products and even home goods, making secondhand buying and selling extremely convenient and accessible.
My side gig consists of finding cheap clothes at thrift stores and selling them on resale platforms for more than I paid. It’s kind of like flipping houses, but on a much smaller scale. I only dabble in selling clothes, but there’s a swarm of people who earn a living reselling all types of products across multiple platforms. Seriously, there are people who have quit their jobs to become full-time resellers.
Sounds like easy money, right? Well, not quite. When I walk into a thrift store, I spend hours — no exaggeration — sifting through racks to find quality name-brand items I think will be in high demand. Sometimes I’ll spend half a day in a store and walk out empty-handed. It takes patience, focus and a lot of coffee, but finding a $7 Burberry coat that retails for more than $400 is well worth the effort.
Secondhand resale isn’t a new concept, and individual resellers only make up one aspect of the market. Thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army have been in the game for more than 100 years. And smaller consignment shops like Plato’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange are scattered everywhere. So why has the market gained such popularity recently? Three words: convenience, sustainability and value.
Say you’re looking to buy a pair of rollerblades. What’s your typical process when it comes to shopping? Do you go from store to store looking for rollerblades until you find the ones you like, or do you research different brands and scan product reviews? Most people’s shopping experiences start online. With distributors like Amazon and Walmart making the online shopping experience (and return process) user-friendly, it’s easier than ever to commit to making an online purchase.
The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a recent uptick in online shopping. While many department stores like Stein Mart, J. Crew and Neiman Marcus struggled with sales and filed for bankruptcy, online consignment stores like thredUP and The RealReal experienced accelerated sales. ThredUP had a record-breaking month for new website visits in May and maintained 20% growth since quarantining went into effect, according to their 2020 resale report. But online shopping was gaining traction even before the pandemic. According to Statista, the number of digital shoppers has climbed from 1.32 billion in 2014 to 2.05 billion in 2020.
How many gallons of water do you think it takes to manufacture a T-shirt and a pair of jeans? If you guessed 5,000 gallons, you were right (and would probably make an awesome Jeopardy contestant). According to Recycle.com and AlterNet, 84% of textile waste is sent to landfills at a cost of $3.7 billion, which is one reason why the clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world behind oil.
When an individual or business recirculates an item of clothing into the market, they give it a second life and keep it from going in a landfill. The Balance Small Business cites that if the average lifespan of clothing were extended by just three months, it would reduce their carbon and water footprints, as well as waste generation, by 5 to 10%.
Shopping secondhand is good for the environment, but it’s also good for your wallet. Remember those rollerblades we were talking about earlier? If you were interested in buying a pair from a quality brand like Bladerunner, you could search Amazon right now and find a new pair for upwards of $130. Same with Walmart. However, if you look for rollerblades on a resale site like Poshmark or eBay, where new inventory is posted every day, you’ll find multiple gently used pairs for as little as $20. If you have a tough time getting past the fact that they’re used, the $110 in savings might help console you.
The resale trend is not slowing down anytime soon. ThredUP’s 2020 Resale Report shows that 79% of consumers plan to cut their apparel budget in the next 12 months and four in five people have been or are open to shopping secondhand when money gets tight.
I guess Macklemore was right when he said one person’s trash is another person’s come-up.
Do you have a similar side business, or are you thinking about starting one? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
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