Want to know the single best secret to scoring great purchases secondhand? I think I’ve got the answer for you.
So here it is. My biggest secret for shopping secondhand and finding total gems. It’s all about the right neighborhood. Yep. It totally matters where you shop.
Here’s why, when it comes to secondhand style, geography matters.
When donating, reselling or consigning clothes, most people take the path of least resistance.
We think: What’s the easiest way to get all this crap out of my closet?
Typically, we throw everything in some bags or boxes and drop it off at our local thrift store. Then we let them do the dirty work of figuring out what’s saleable, recyclable and what ends up in a landfill (sidenote: it’s more than you might want to believe).
In any case, the curated offerings at each thrift store are dependent on the locals who drop off their goods. What gets dropped off depends on what the neighbors buy. The nicer the neighborhood, the higher quality donations that tend to be received. Even better, in really nice neighborhoods, most people don’t shop secondhand, so good finds are plentiful.
There’s a Caveat (or Maybe Two)
Secondhand shopping is becoming more mainstream. With that, there’s a rise in more heavily curated consignment shops as well as easy-to-use online resale outlets (like thredUP, about which I’ve shared extensively). Both consignment and resale shops turn ‘donors’ into ‘sellers’.
If your local thrift store is located not far from a consignment shop, those wealthy neighbors are more likely to stop at the consignment shop and earn a couple bucks for their higher quality discards. In Chicago, I lived not far from a Salvation Army where I found tons of amazing pieces. There were no convenient consignment shops in the area.
In my new area in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the nearest Goodwill in an upscale neighborhood sits right down the street from a well-curated and established consignment store. I made one stop at the Goodwill to check it out after moving here and have no plans to return. I went straight from Goodwill to the consignment shop down the street and found the dress I’m wearing today, tags still attached, for a reasonable price.
Consignment shops are more expensive than thrift stores, but they’ve also done a whole lot more work ensuring you’re only sifting through high quality pieces. The thrift stores definitely have their fair share of pieces that aren’t all that impressive.
Even if your thrift store doesn’t have a classier consignment shop neighbor, online resale has become so darn easy. Order a bag, fill it up, and wait for an email to tell you how much you earned. As this becomes the path of least resistance, thrift stores will continue to see a decline in the quality of their style wares.
And why not? Don’t most of us prefer thredUP over trips to the thrift store donation center when we think we might earn a little extra cash for our clothes?
Covet Thy Neighbor’s Closet
Regardless of whether your secondhand pieces come from consignment or thrift stores, brick-and-mortar or online outlets, the donor or seller really drives the success of the shop. Without good stuff coming in, there’s not much value in visiting to shop.
If you’re shopping resale online, it’s pretty easy to sort quickly to gain an overall idea of the quality of the offering. Read this helpful guide about how to make the most of thredUP and you’ll be off and running.
For those who prefer to try on styles before buying or just happen to be popping into a local shop, think about the types of people that live in the surrounding area. Do you share their style tastes? Do you wish you had a closet that looked like theirs? If so, you’re probably in the right spot. If not, you may just want to climb back in your car and try again elsewhere.