For most of my adult life, I purchased all of my clothing at retail stores. It wasn’t until about eight years ago that I discovered a new type of place to shop, the resale shop. These stores are known by all types of terms – thrift, consignment, second-hand, opportunity (or “op-shops” for short), to name a few. The common thread is that the items sold are not new; they were previously owned by someone else, or “pre-loved” if you will.
Many people swear by the virtues of resale shopping and a number of bloggers have pledged to only shop at such stores for a year or longer. I don’t think I’ll go that far. For one, the availability of pants with tall inseams at such shops is in short supply (pun intended – sometimes I can’t resist…). That alone gives me pause when considering a “resale only” pledge. I also like to keep my options open, especially now that I’m aiming at being smarter in terms of what I buy and using my head more than my heart when shopping.
Not a Black or White Issue
Whether or not one shops resale is not a black or white issue. In my option, there are plusses and minuses to this type of shopping, just as there are for standard retail buying. In this post, I outline what I see as the pros and cons of resale shopping. In my next article, I’ll offer some tips for successful resale shopping for those who choose to pursue this avenue. While I’m by no means a resale shopping expert and still make mistakes with this type of shopping (and all shopping…), I have learned some useful lessons over the years which I’m happy to share with my readers.
The “Pros” of Resale Shopping
There are a number of advantages to hitting your local consignment shop instead of the mall, including the following:
If you’re concerned about the impact of your shopping on the planet, resale shopping is a good option for you. By purchasing “pre-loved” clothing, you are giving these items new life and saving them from being thrown into a landfill or shipped overseas. You’re also making a statement with your clothing dollars that you care about the environment and want to decrease your participation in the “fast fashion” madness, which has negative ethical and environmental consequences. Even if you only buy a portion of your clothing at resale stores, you’re taking a positive step in the right direction toward helping to heal the earth.
When you shop at the mall, your choices are mostly limited to the current trends for styles, colors, and fabrics. If these options aren’t to your liking, you’re pretty much out of luck. At a resale store, you will have many more options to choose from. While most resale stores stock items that are still relatively current, the selection isn’t just what’s on the cutting edge of fashion. Consequently, you’ll see a wider variety of cuts, colors, and prints, and may be more likely to find things you really like.
Designer Styles, Bargain Prices
Many of us have designers we love whose offerings are out of our price range. But if you shop at an upscale consignment store or on Ebay, you’ll likely find the pieces you covet for much lower prices. In many cases, these items are still in excellent condition and you’ll be able to enjoy them for a long time – without having to break the bank!
Another bonus is that some designers may not be known to resale store personnel and thus clothing from those makers may be priced much lower than you’d expect. If you know your designers and fabrics, you might benefit from knowing more than the people who price the clothing. That’s definitely been the case for me over the years.
Better Quality Pieces
As “fast fashion” becomes increasingly common in the retail landscape, the quality of clothing has declined. Consequently, even those brands we used to trust are offering sub-standard merchandise these days. However, if you find garments from those brands in a resale shop, they may be a few years old and of higher quality than the current offerings.
You may find better fabrics (i.e. natural fibers instead of the ubiquitous and dreaded polyester), thicker weight materials, and superior workmanship in a consignment store than at your local mall. Sadly, as “fast fashion” continues to dominate, even the quality of resale clothing has gone downhill. But it’s still often better than what one can find in a retail establishment.
Remember the old quote from Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, the same thing is true of resale shopping. It’s like a treasure hunt every time you visit these stores. You can find amazing, interesting, and unique items if you’re open to searching for them. I personally love the “treasure hunt” aspect of thrift and consignment stores. Sure, you need to pick through more clothing to find those “diamonds in the rough,” but the feeling of gratification derived from unearthing these finds can really be worth it.
The “Cons” of Resale Shopping
While the “pros” I outlined above are definitely compelling, there is also a downside to shopping at consignment and thrift stores. Listed below are what I view as the “cons” of resale shopping:
It’s always a good idea to shop with a list and aim to only buy items that are on that list. However, when resale shopping, it’s all too easy to become distracted by what’s in front of you. You may become dazzled by the low prices and buy things you don’t really need or that are very similar to what you already have (how do you think I ended up with nine black skirts at the beginning of this year?).
Limited Size Selection
When you shop at a department store, you can usually try on garments in multiple sizes to find the best fit for you. Not so in a resale shop. Most of the items sold are one of a kind and you get only one shot at the size. If something doesn’t fit, you’re just plain out of luck.
“This Will Do”
Piggy-backing on the “con” above is the “this will do” phenomenon. Since you only have one size option available to you, you may lower your standards related to fit. You may be more willing to accept a garment being a bit too loose or a smidge too tight.
While alterations can handle the former issue, a tight garment is unlikely to be worn very often. Even if something fits you well, you may be willing to settle for buying something you don’t truly love simply because the price is low and you’re “getting a deal.” Remember, we’re aiming for “8”s and above as much as possible!
Poor Fitting Room Conditions
If you’ve ever shopped at a second-hand store, you probably know that the fitting rooms aren’t up to Nordstrom’s standards. Some resale stores don’t even have fitting rooms at all! If you are lucky enough to be able to try on your prospective buys, the lighting is often poor and you’ll rarely find a three-way mirror, let alone a mirror large enough for you to see the “big picture.” While you can always use a hand mirror to see the rear view, you won’t be able to see things are clearly as in a department store setting.
When you buy items at resale shops, they are usually “final sale.” That means returns are not an option. While many shoppers do their best to avoid having to make returns, sometimes it’s difficult to discern the suitability of a garment in the store. Once you get something home, you may find that it doesn’t work with your existing wardrobe, isn’t right for your lifestyle, or just doesn’t look as good on you as you thought (if you saw the Seinfeld “skinny mirrors” episode, you know what I’m talking about…). If you bought that piece at a resale store, you’re probably out of luck. The best you can do in most cases is to re-consign it and hope to get a portion of your money back.
The Choice is Yours
As you can see, there are quite a few plusses and minuses involved in resale shopping. It’s up to you whether or not the pros outweigh the cons. Perhaps simply being aware of the potential pitfalls will help you to avoid them. I know I wasn’t really cognizant of the dark side of consignment shopping until I ended up with an overabundance of “wardrobe benchwarmers” that I purchased in such stores.
I’ve decided that for me, the benefits of resale shopping make it a worthwhile pursuit. However, I’ve chosen to shift my “game plan” for when I set foot in my favorite consignment stores. I’ll share what I’ve learned and offer my best tips and suggestions in my next post.
Did I Forget Any “Pros” or “Cons”?
How do you feel about resale shopping? Did I leave out any important “pros” or “cons”? If so, please share them in the comments section below or connect with me to offer your thoughts.