Shopping today takes many different forms from shopping centers to online websites, but one way to shop that has re-emerged on the scene is thrift shopping.

Thrift stores first popped up in the late 19th century, according to Time magazine. When the industrial revolution introduced the mass production of clothing, clothes were seen as more disposable.

As urban populations grew, the size of living spaces shrunk, and more possessions were being tossed. Time also reports that thrift stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army started becoming organized like department stores and changed their name from junk shops to thrift stores in the 1920s, allowing the middle class to feel comfortable shopping there.

In 2018, there are currently more than 25,000 resale, consignment and not-for-profit resale shops in the U.S., according to The Association of Resale Professionals.

About 16 to 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year, according to America’s Research Group, a consumer research firm. For consignment and resale shops, it’s about 12 to 15 percent. Whereas, 1.4 percent of Americans shop in factory outlet malls, 19.6 percent in apparel stores and 21.3 percent in major department stores.

In 2012, rubber, leather and textiles made up nearly nine percent of the 251 million tons of waste produced in the U.S., according to the EPA.
Throwing out old clothing just shortens its journey to a landfill. Cotton takes one to five months to biodegrade in landfills, whereas nylon can take 30 to 40 years, and synthetic fibers, like polyester, can take between 20 to 200 years to biodegrade, according to a Biodegradability Study on Cotton and Polyester Fabrics.

“Buying second-hand is better for the environment because it’s recycling someone’s old into my new,” PSUC junior environmental science major Teresa Moran said. “It also saves me a lot of money as a college student.”

Thrift stores have clothes that aren’t sold in mainstream stores today.

Graphic sweaters from the ‘90s, flannels with oversized look and even retro boots are just some of the things people can find in a thrift store.
Michael Otton, PSUC senior environmental planning management said, “You can find things that you wouldn’t find in department stores, and it’s really cool how you can find various fashions from different eras.”

Otton frequents thrift shops because of the low cost of everything, even expensive articles of clothing like winter jackets.

“Unlike department stores, I have never walked into Salvation Army and spent more than $10 on one item,” Otton said. “I have found some of the most high quality stuff for so cheap at thrift stores, and it’s always so exciting to dig for new stuff.”

Thrift stores are like treasure hunts to some shoppers.

“I mainly shop at thrift stores because I never know what I will come out of the store with,” PSUC sophomore English major Colby Lewis said.

Thrift stores today can carry a wide variety of items and clothing from kitchen appliances to retro hats for very low prices.

“You can find so many unique items that you really can’t find in any retail store nowadays,” Lewis said.

Thrift stores are appealing to people for unique items and low prices.

“Whether or not I’m looking for oversized sweaters and flannels or an outfit for a themed party, I can always find something,” PSUC junior environmental studies major Charlotte Martindale said. “I also feel like most items that I have purchased from a thrift store have been made from durable material in comparison to some new items bought at malls that are also priced way more than items in a thrift store.”

Email Keely Cohen-Breen at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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