The last of the ‘80s excess mentality is officially gone: Bargain shoppers rule and they’re on the prowl for a good deal whether they’re looking for furniture, clothing, or even electronics.
And local stores, Tags Consignment and the nonprofit store The Hope Chest, are enjoying a surge in customers and donations, along with resalers across the country, according to research compiled by the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops.
“There’s a lot of value to be had in consigning items that have been under utilized in the home,” Tags co-owner Tanya Bruchacek said of the growing popularity of consignment and thrift stores. “You can breathe new life into an item just by adding or taking away something else. Individualism is well and thriving and it really comes out from repurposing clothing.”
Tags, open since October 2006, has experienced a wild growth surge since opening a modest store front on Yosemite Avenue that quickly required a bigger space due to the popularity. When the economy started to show signs of distress, Bruchacek and her business partner Sandy Reed saw a corresponding rise in new customers looking for a better, deeper bargain than the retail stores could offer.
“We have a very broad demographic (from 18 to 55) and according to surveys we’ve done the average household income has been creeping up,” Reed said. “We’ve seen a huge increase in career-wear sales because women are going back to work and they’re looking for a quality piece of clothing for an equally good price.”
With the average item price ringing in at $11 and approximately 1,500 pieces received each week, Reed and Bruchacek liken the process as having 1,350 (the number of consignors currently with Tags) personal shoppers for their customers.
“People understand the value of a dollar,” Bruchacek said.
Reed agreed. “They’re thinking about it before they spend.”
The Hope Chest, a nonprofit owned by Community Hospice of Modesto, has experienced a similar surge in customers, all looking for more bang for their buck during tough times.
“Business has been excellent,” Julie Lewis, manager for the Oakdale Hope Chest location said. “We’ve been steadily growing. As of last September business shot up because of the economy.”
Lewis said Christmas time was the big indicator of how tough times had become for some families.
“Last year we had a lot of customers comment how they couldn’t afford new or to buy at the mall,” Lewis said. “People are turning to thrift stores for great deals and that’s what we offer in a clean, friendly environment.”
Lewis stated that while clothing has always been a popular sale item, recently, furniture and electronics have been rising in popularity.
“Furniture is selling more,” Lewis said. “A lot more people are shopping for big ticket items.”
The Internet, which seems to always be on the edge of change, has also changed the way people shop with the introduction of Craigslist, an online classified section that started in the Bay Area, where posters can list an item for sale for free from their computer.
There are those who’ve always known the value of repurposing household items but with the current trend toward green living, consignment and thrift have become “cool” even with the younger generation. No longer is there a stigma to buying used, in fact, it’s appreciated and understood not only for the economic savings but also for the benefit it provides for the environment.
“Our repurposed jewelry is our best seller,” Bruchacek said. “You can take beads from one piece of jewelry and reset it to make something completely different or take bottle caps and turn into Oakdale High jewelry. It’s fun and inexpensive and supports a low-cost need.”
An unexpected bonus for Tags as a resaler has been the recent acceptance of liquidator merchandise.
“We now have brand new items, for example $80 pair of boots for $35, because retailers have had to reduce their stock,” Bruchacek said. “It’s been great.”