Some business concepts reach the public by way of a song.
“Thrift Shop,” by Macklemore, is a catchy and at times hard to resist song that discusses shopping for thrift. If you want to listen to the song, seek the clean, edited version.
The concept of selling thrift is old, but a recent “shift to thrift” has caught on and is becoming more prevalent in communities everywhere.
Nonprofits have long utilized thrift stores as a revenue stream for their charities and programs. Salvation Army and Goodwill are national examples, as are local organizations such as the Alcove, the ARC and the Women’s Center. The Food Bank is associated with Kathleen’s Closet. Some church and hospital fundraising is supported by thrift stores.
In some small towns, thrift stores help support the community itself, with local volunteer groups collecting items and operating the stores. These thrift stores on certain days each month give community members in need the opportunity to “shop” up to a certain dollar amount at no cost.
I have long enjoyed thrift shopping. It started for me, as many things do, with music, frequenting area thrift stores searching for rare and out-of-print LP records and 45 rpms. Over the years, I added cassettetapes and CDs.
The idea of thrift in a normal retail setting has been around a long time. Calling something “vintage,” “retro” or “original” is one way to place certain thrift-like items into the traditionally nonthrift retail setting.
Locally owned consignment stores and national franchises now specialize in everything from ball gowns to baby clothes to trendy teen and young adult fashions.
Why is thrift so appealing to so many people? I have a few theories.
The easy answer would be it saves money and recycles items. Like Macklemore sings in the song Thrift Shop, “one man’s trash, that’s another man’s come-up.”
The Urban Dictionary defines “come-up” as “a bargain, or a found item that is of value to the finder.” So that brings me to my theory of the growing popularity of thrift store shopping.
While finding an item that you feel has more value than the price you paid is a great feeling, I believe the act of finding the item is the real attraction. Perhaps it speaks to a primitive instinct of hunting and gathering. Maybe the appeal is the thrill of the hunt and the stories one can tell about the find.
My latest thrift experience occurred on a recent trip to a major outlet mall while on vacation. I ducked into a Barneys outlet store to browse and kill a little time while the rest of my family shopped.
I was surprised to find a Barneys display selling new Disney-themed toys and other Disney items that were made to look old or vintage.
My business curiosity was piqued. It seemed so out of place in a major, nationally known, higher-end retailer, even if it was an outlet version of the store.
As I picked up a Mickey Mouse wind-up walking toy to examine it, I had to call over an employee to ask what was going on with the vintage-looking toys and other items. The employee explained to me that buyers and display people had researched, searched for and procured as many original and vintage items as they could for Barneys’ recently completed Disney’s Electric Holiday promotion.
After the promotion ended, the items were distributed to be resold at regional Barneys outlet stores. He pointed out that all of the items I was looking at were, in fact, original.
I glanced down at the “well played with” walking toy and turned it over to read the date on the bottom. It read 1977.
I twisted the wind-up gear; it worked. For a second, I thought about my early years and the toys I enjoyed so much as a child. Somewhere in the deepest recesses of my memory, that smiling Mickey Mouse walking toy was there and smiling back at a much younger me. I ended up buying back a little piece of my childhood that day.
So, here’s to the growing shift to thrift. Go forth to hunt and gather, and maybe you will find what you are looking for at the thrift store.
Joe Molineaux, director of the Small Business Development Center at Richard Stockton College, can be reached at MxBusinessBeats@gmail.com.