Consignment vs. Thrift Stores


Long time no post, huh? I've been busy with a new job and wedding planning (on top of my other job and school). I've been so busy in fact, that I haven't been thrifting in weeks. This weekend I finally got myself out there, and I've realized, now that I'm busier (and making more money, if I'm honest), that I'm a lot more interested in shopping at consignment (and/or resale) stores than I have been in the past. I'll never stop loving a dirty old Goodwill, but it would appear that as my needs and lifestyle change, so do my second hand store preferences. That's one of the great things about thrifting though- even if you're not down for a dirty charity shop like I might be, there are different (cleaner, easier) ways to thrift. One distinction between second-hand stores is consignment vs. thrift stores. So what's the difference? And which is better for you, the shopper?

Thrift Stores

Large thrift store chains you're probably familiar with are stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Savers (aka Value Village depending on where you live). Generally speaking, most thrift stores get the bulk of their merchandise via donations. And, generally speaking, they exist as a way to generate funds for an initiative or project of some sort. Goodwill, for example, uses its thrift store profits to provide job training and employment placement services. Because items at thrift stores are usually donated, they're random as ever. There are plenty of gems in those heaps of donations, but you have to go through and find them. Whether or not thrift stores are for you really depends on that.

Pros...

It's cheaper. These stores are not paying for merchandise, so prices tend to be lower. Often times, they have flat pricing, so while they might charge you $5 for a Forever 21 top, they're also charging you just $5 for higher quality pieces.

It's a treasure hunt. If you're enticed by "the hunt," and get a little shopper's high from a good find, thrift stores are a bit more fun than consignment/retail stores.

Cons...

It's a lot of time and work. If you're not interested in the hunt, thrifting for hours to find one good piece might just seem like a waste of time.

Might be a little dirtier. You know. That thrift store grime. Not all places are like this, and honestly, I don't mind it at all, but this really bugs some people!

Consignment Stores

Consignment stores sell goods on behalf of the piece's original owner, so both the original owner and the shop make money only once the item has sold. There are stores that don't necessarily follow this model, like Plato's Closet or Buffalo Exchange, that I personally still mentally clump together with consignment shops. These are typically referred to as "resale stores." They usually have buyers on site who will look through your pile of unwanted stuff and pay you for anything they think they can resell. They aren't true consignment stores, but from the perspective of the shopper, the two are essentially the same. Because the items in consignment or resale stores are purchased from the original owners (in one way or another) rather than donated, these stores tend to have a more curated selection. Plato's Closet, for example, is geared toward teens and young adults.

Pros...

It's easy. Essentially, somebody's already done the shopping for you by curating the stock. You won't have to sift through the junk to get to the brands/styles you're looking for, and the majority of the pieces there are in good shape.

Cons...

It's more expensive. You're paying for the ease of shopping at a consignment or resale shop, but prices are definitely still lower than buying pieces new.

Recap

So, to keep it short and simple, from a shopper's perspective: thrift stores are typically stocked with random donated items, and consignment stores typically have a curated selection of merchandise they are reselling. There are some places that like to bend the rules (like Goodwill boutiques), but we'll save those for another day. You can see how somebody a bit busier might prefer consignment shops to thrifting. But overall, it really depends on what you prefer: what you're looking for, how much you're willing to work, and how much you're willing to spend. Like I said, I've been more interested in consignment/resale these days, but I still could just never give up the thrift hunt. Which would you prefer? Let me know! Seeyasoonish! M

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