Throughout the nation volunteers at thrift shops of every stripe, site, specialty, and affiliation are loading the racks, shelves and bins with irresistible bargains sure to capture the gaze and hearts of ardent bargain hunters. National Thrift Shop Day 2015 http://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thrift-shop-day-august-17/’ comes just in time for shoppers to snag that perfect State Fair outfit or the trendy back-to-school wardrobe for young scholars. Cost conscious consumers heed the data that calculate a cost of $630 to outfit a K-12 learner – though college students may keep clothing costs down they still have to furnish a room, for a statistical average of $899 – which, includes digital gear but omits tuition and fees….!
In her comprehensive study of American frugality journalist Lauren Weber concludes that what’s now called “thrifting” is in the DNA of this nation and its people. Though some historians credit the Puritans for importing the commitment to frugality Weber holds that American penny pinching can also be traced to Revolutionary era necessity. The obligatory habit was elevated to virtue status by the forefathers including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Ben Franklin who advised that the wise consumer would “rather to go to bed supperless than rise in debt.”
Weber’s broad view of our heritage of cheapness puts today’s thrift shops in historic perspective, a relatively modern indicator of need, proclivity, and creative rising to meet society’s needs. It is generally agreed that the first thrift shop was started in 1899 by the UK’s Wolverhampton Society for the Blind (later known as the Beacon Centre for the Blind.) In 1907 the Red Cross opened its first shop at 7 Old Bond Street in London. These shops, staffed by volunteers, served a dual purpose – to raise operating funds for the organization and to meet the immediate needs of impoverished families living in the community. Today’s thrift shops continue to serve this original purpose. At the same time, thrifting has evolved as habitual shopping for environmentalists concerned about preservation of natural resources and social justice advocates protesting the unfair treatment of sweatshop workers and unscrupulous apparel manufacturers. Today what is known as “resale” (as opposed to “retail”) is a multi-million dollar industry. First Research (http://www.firstresearch.com/industry-research/Used-Merchandise-Stores.html estimates the resale industry in the U.S. to have annual revenues of approximately $16 billion including revenue from antique stores which are 13% of their statistics. Established in 1984, the National Association of Retail Professionals (www.narts.org) calculates that there are more than 25,000 resale, consignment and not-for-private retail shops in the U.S. NARTS summarizes the current status of thrift shops thus: “The resale market is blossoming thanks to value-conscious consumers. With an increasing awareness of the importance of reducing pointless waste, we are progressing from a disposable society to a recycling society—a change that has enormous market potential for the resale industry as a whole. After all, “Resale is the ultimate in recycling!” (http://www.narts.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3285) Wise thrifters will want to take affirmative steps to gird their loins and prepare their psyches for National Thrift Shop Day 2015. Some suggestions:
- Consult the online state-by-state guide to local thrift shop – though incomplete, it’s useful as a guide to the diversity, the unique profile, mission and site of many bargain opportunities. http://www.localthriftshops.org
- Listen to Lauren Weber, the author of In Cheap We Trust, interviewed on National Public Radio. That tape is listenable online: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112557219
- Read the first chapter of In Cheap We Trust, posted online on the NPR site. Better yet, read the whole book – details on the NPR site.
- Check Megan McArdle’s review of In Cheap We Trust, published in the New York Times, October 9, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/books/review/McArdle-t.html?_r=0
- Totally get down by marinading in the dulcet tones of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in their unique rendition of Thrift Shop Feat (parental discretion advised…) youtube.com/watch?v=QK8mJJJvaes
- Parse the lyrics of Thrift Shop at http://www.metrolyrics.com/thrift-shop-lyrics-macklemore.html