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Is the Golden Era of Thrift Store Shopping Over?

Macy loves cooking and gardening. Living with diabetes and fibromyalgia, she enjoys exploring ways to live life more fully.

Is the golden era of thrift store shopping behind us? Not yet. However, the hunt has become more challenging as traditional thrift shoppers compete with a new generation of thrifters. These shoppers are savvy and are shopping with a plan.

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Image by Olivia Gonzalez from

I grew up shopping at thrift stores. They were mostly small local stores supporting churches or other nonprofit organizations. However, there was also little Goodwill in our town, which I frequented more as a teen because of the sixty-nine-cent bins where you could find unique bargains.

That little Goodwill thrift store is where I found my speech and debate competition outfit. I found a white button-down shirt, very preppy. Another day, while rummaging around in the bins,, I found a black wool kick pleat skirt missing its lining. I paired these with a red sweater vest and black heels that I purchased new with my babysitting money. I had quite the outfit and even won the district competition that year.

Growing up, I thrifted from necessity. Money was tight in my single-parent family, and going to the thrift stores helped to fill the gap in what we could purchase new.


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Image by Firmbee from

In my 20s, I worked for several retail clothing companies. One benefit of working at these stores was the deep discounts on the clothing we sold. So, for several years, much of what I wore was new and off the rack. However, once I left retail, I realized that affording brand-new clothing was no longer an option in my budget. And so I returned to the thrift store shopping.

My financial picture has improved over the years, and it's no longer mandatory for me to shop at thrift stores to make ends meet. However, I've continued to shop at thrift stores due to my learned frugality and the thrill of the hunt. It is difficult to pay full price for something that I can get less expensive somewhere else. However, finding those high-quality items at lower prices is getting more and more challenging.

“Budgeting is not just for people who do not have enough money. It is for everyone who wants to ensure that their money is enough.”

— Rosette Mugidde Wamambe

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Image by 3888952 from

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The Popularity of Thrift Shopping

There has been a 16% increase in thrift shopping over the past several years. According to a report by Thredup, this increase is primarily attributed primarily to the rise of Gen Z shoppers. Along with other thrift store shoppers, Gen Z shoppers are looking to save money, be more sustainable, and have fun while shopping. The good news is that more clothing and household items are staying in circulation and out of the landfill, creating competition for those great finds.

Image by Piero Nigro from

Image by Piero Nigro from

The Pandemic

During the pandemic and subsequent shutdown, many people lost jobs, temporarily and some permanently, which increased the financial necessity of shopping at thrift stores. Others stuck at home spent time redecorating and sought unique, one-of-a-kind items at thrift stores.

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Image by StockSnap from

Increased Interest in Arts and Crafts

Artists and crafters have long known that their local thrift store could be a bountiful source of low-cost tools and supplies. Yarn, fabric, and patterns are available for textile artists. Meanwhile, sculptors and other 3D artists can find tools, metal pieces, and wood items to incorporate into their works of art for pennies on the dollar.


Image by Tuulemeelne from

Image by Tuulemeelne from

Interest in Thrift Flipping

Thrift flipping is purchasing an item at a thrift store and repairing it before reselling the object. This can be as simple as changing out buttons on a cardigan sweater, hemming a skirt with a stained hem, or repainting a nightstand.

Some Final Words

So, is the golden era of the thrift store gone? Not yet. The hunt has become more challenging as traditional thrift shoppers compete with a new generation of thrifters. However, people still donate and shop for many reasons. Seek out stores in new neighborhoods, explore both the big box charity stores and the little hole-in-the-wall shops. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow you will find your next treasure.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Macy Mayer

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