Many of us love a good hunt through the local thrift store – me included! Rather than something to be ashamed of, thrifting or op-shopping has become something of a trendy hobby, spawning many a business idea, and even a smash hit song!
While thrift store bargain hunting has become mainstream, the commercialisation of secondhand fashion has a few downsides.
Prices aren’t always the ‘bargain’ we expect nowadays. Where charity run stores were previously run on volunteer power, now we are seeing salaried retail positions and paid advertising. Commercial expenses continue to go up to of course which all adds to the need for thrift stores to raise prices to match the market. We are also seeing a rise in niche businesses stocking high-end secondhand fashion.
There’s more competition to seek out the ‘good stuff’. Once the secret of thrifting hit mainstream level, the amount of shoppers seeking out the top quality finds increased likewise. You may have already noticed your neighbourhood store is busier, and you have to spend extra time searching the racks for a brand name.
There are still plenty of upsides to thrifting though and there is definitely gold to be found!
Here are 6 things to look for when thrift shopping fashion:
1. Retail Price
You don’t have to know exactly what things are priced at the retail level, but having a fair idea can help you in deciding if it’s worth buying at the secondhand price. For example, you know that a pair of Portman’s dress pants sell for a much higher price than a pair of Kmart pants. Spending $30 on a secondhand pair of Portman’s is a wiser choice than spending that on a pair of Kmart pants.
Fully inspect an item before heading for the checkout – don’t go off the inside label or price alone.
Check for frayed hems, missing buttons, broken zips as all these can mean extra money for repairs. When looking for stains make sure you look all over the garment, not just the obvious places (like where we’re likely to spill some soup!). Also light can play a factor here in ‘hiding’ imperfections so as you’re walking around the store, keep checking the item over.
Finding a fault isn’t always enough to merit putting a hot item back on the rack, but it can make for better informed spending.
3. Brand Names
Look for brand names that you’re familiar with and know are top quality. This isn’t a status thing, but rather a bang for your buck thing – you want to know that what you’re buying will become a valued piece of your wardrobe.
Don’t be afraid to get out your mobile phone and do a search on a brand name if you aren’t sure – especially as not everything is labelled with the big box names anymore. That fancy brand name on the tag could, in fact, be a basic fast fashion item worth mere dollars at the retail level.
4. Resale Value
Not all of us thrift with the end goal of reselling of course, but it’s still handy to keep this in mind because situations change. My best item to date was a pair of jeans that cost me $10. I wore these jeans many times over the following 2 years before weight loss made them unwearable. I listed them on eBay at 99c and they ended up selling for $32! SCORE!
If you are wanting to resell your items, then know the market before hitting the thrift stores. What’s in fashion right now? How much are people paying for secondhand items and what are they buying? Is there an upcoming fashion trend that you can get the jump on early before others hit the secondhand hunt in droves?
Doing some research before shopping can help you make some great profitable decisions in-store.
Fast fashion means that you are likely to find double up items on the thrift store racks. These can still be great items of course, but the true gold lies in the rare and unique things.
One of my favourite finds from my teen years was a handmade maxi dress. The fabric was one I’d never seen before and this particular style wasn’t in fashion at the time – in fact, I’d found this dress in the ‘retro’ section of a small country town op-shop! This dress was stunning, well made, and I wore it several times over the following years before reselling when the style came into fashion again.
Finding the rare items ensures that you won’t have that awkward moment of turning up to a party to find everyone else is wearing the same thing, but it also helps for the resellers among us.
Before buying ask yourself ‘Will I actually wear this?’
There have been many times I’ve purchased great things from op shops only for them to sit in the back of the wardrobe because they aren’t my style or don’t fit. These items would then end up being donated back to the store a few years later.
Just as consumers tend to buy bulk amount of fast fashion items because it’s ‘cheap’, so to can thrifters! Don’t buy something based on price alone – you should also consider the wearability of the item, ie, is it functional, does it fit well, etc.