The Gentrification of Thrifting: Is Thrifting + Reselling Ethical?
Thrifting has become incredibly popular over the years, and critics argue that this popularity has led to the gentrification of thrifting. Basically, that means that it’s been made inaccessible to the working class, and taken over by the middle- and upper-class.
While thrifting is usually encouraged for environmental reasons, some people are now claiming that we should stop thrifting or stop reselling, as it’s hurting these low-income communities.
While I think these arguments come from good hearts and real concerns, I don’t think they get to the root of the issue. So, I want to explore the ethics of thrifting and reselling in this post, plus give some tips for thrifting consciously.
Before we dive in, I want to note that I don’t have much of a personal stake in this—I do try to thrift when I need to buy clothes, but I don’t go often, and I’m not a reseller (I have resold my own clothes in the past, but haven’t thrifted to resell).
I feel that resellers have been mischaracterized in a lot of recent content on thrifting, so I’ll be be including a mini interview segment with an actual reseller. Please stick around to learn more about the other side of reselling!
If you’re a more visual/auditory learner, here’s a YouTube video version of this post:
Common Criticisms of Thrifting (and Reselling)
A lot of criticism of thrifting (and reselling) has surfaced recently, so let’s start with the four main thrifting issues that have been called out.
1. Prices are rising due to demand.
There’s no doubt that prices generally have been on the rise. If we take a look at the 2010 and 2020 Goodwill Valuation Guides, we’ll see that Goodwill now recommends ranges instead of a flat base price. The upper end of the 2020 range is often 3 times as much as the 2010 base price.
Left is 2010, right is 2020
People blame the rising prices on the popularity of thrifting, but I think it’s a lot more complicated than that.
The argument is that increased demand leads to scarcity, which results in increased prices. The thing is that most thrift stores have a huge excess of clothing. Only 20% of clothes donated to thrift stores is actually sold—the rest is thrown away or sold to developing countries, where it puts local textile workers out of jobs. So in this case, higher demand isn’t actually leading to scarcity, so the demand isn’t directly causing higher prices.
We have to take a step back and think about some other potential factors, like increased operating costs. We can’t forget inflation, which is around 19% accumulated over 10 years. This means that the value of $10 in 2010 is about $12 now.
Beyond that, thrift stores’ rent has certainly gone up, and we like to hope that employees’ salaries have gone up (though corporate thrift stores have a lot of labor issues, which we’ll talk about later). It’s only normal that prices have increased at least a little.
But of course, some people are witnessing larger jumps that can’t necessarily be explained by inflation. In that case, I think we have to look at the decisions of these stores’ corporate offices. The 2020 Goodwill Valuation Guide shows, with their ranges, shows that Goodwill wants to get the maximum possible payment for their product. Sometimes, people will even notice that Goodwill prices an item with original tags higher than the price on that tag, which is kind of outrageous.
People will argue that the popularity of thrifting is responsible for the rising prices, but popularity wouldn’t directly lead to higher prices without scarcity. The issue is not the popularity, but the thrift stores taking advantage of the situation and raising prices.
Instead of blaming individuals for thrifting, maybe we should blame corporate greed. After all, the CEO of Goodwill made $730,000 in 2018, all while paying workers with disabilities sometimes less than a dollar an hour!
Keep in mind that there even more external factors for the affordability of thrifting, including the stagnant minimum wage in the US. If hourly wages aren’t going up, then everything becomes more expensive with inflation.
Overall, I don’t think it’s entirely clear where we should be pointing fingers, but I don’t think increased demand is the biggest culprit for these higher prices.
2. Thrifting “for fun” takes clothes away from those in need.
I already kind of addressed this argument in the previous point, but to reiterate: there’s generally a huge excess of clothing at thrift stores, so there’s more than enough to go around.
You might argue though that higher demand is leading to scarcity of “the good stuff.” Maybe all the leftover clothing is actually ratty and gross. But Leah Wise, a sustainability blogger and former thrift store manager, says that most of the excess items are in good condition, at least in suburban and urban stores. In her low-volume thrift store, they didn’t even have space to put out 30% of the sellable items.
Of course, if you’re going to low-income or rural neighborhoods, you might actually have a scarcity issue. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of where you shop. But if you’re thrifting the suburbs or the city, scarcity isn’t usually a problem.
Also keep in mind that people from different income brackets are sometimes looking for different things. I’m definitely not trying to say that lower-income people can’t have nice things, or don’t want them. But if you’re thrifting out of absolute necessity vs. thrifting for fun, you’re probably not purchasing the same things—some things are just too impractical. Those of us who thrift for fun probably like to think that we “need” what we buy, but did we actually need that ridiculously sequined jacket or a shirt with a cat shooting lasers out of its eyes? Probably not.
I honestly regret not buying this jacket sometimes, but it was $30 and insanely impractical…
3. Thrift hauls encourage overconsumption.
This criticism gets at the culture around mainstream thrifting. All these huge thrift hauls on YouTube aren’t really about shopping in an environmentally conscious way. It’s only promoting overconsumption and the idea that we need endless closets.
I actually wonder if sometimes people go thrifting just for the content, and not because they actually need clothes. I also wonder how much of that clothing they actually wear.
I’m not saying that every thrift haul video is bad—I actually have one myself on my channel, but it’s a review of all the clothes I bought in a year, and it’s not excessive. If you’re sharing a reasonable amount of clothing and encouraging people to buy secondhand, there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s just another thing to buy literal cartfuls of clothing because it’s cheap or trendy, show it off, and then never actually use it. In that case, someone else might’ve benefited from it more, especially if you’re buying high-demand, popular pieces.
Of course, buying lots of clothes does support the charity behind the shop, so we can’t say this is entirely bad, but the overall message of overconsumption is unhealthy. We don’t know what these people are doing with these clothing hauls, and they could just be throwing them away. All of this only reinforces the idea of high-turnover, disposable fashion.
4. Reselling makes thrifting inaccessible to those in need.
To be fair, I actually used to think reselling was questionable, but now I’ve changed my mind, and I’ll explain why.
When it comes to reselling, people often make the same arguments that we’ve covered: one, that resellers contribute to rising prices, and two, that they’re taking away clothes from low-income communities. Things become a little more complex when we’re talking about reselling vs. thrifting as individuals, though.
I again don’t think we can directly blame any group for the increased prices, for the reasons I mentioned already. You might make the argument, however, that resellers show that people can and will pay more for secondhand items, leading stores to raise prices. But you could also argue that the items in a thrift shop vs. a reseller’s shop are almost different items, even if they’re exactly the same.
Let me explain. Say you find a black dress in the thrift store. To get that dress, you had to get to the thrift store, sift through racks and racks of clothing, try on a bunch of things, wait in line to check out, and go home. If that same dress is in a reseller’s shop, you don’t have to do any of that. You’re paying for two different shopping experiences, so resellers and thrift shops aren’t necessarily direct competitors.
All the steps you have to go through to get a thrifted item.
Okay, but what about the resellers who overprice their products or scam people? This is obviously a problem—it’s not really that related to thrifting, but let’s talk about it.
It’s first important to point out that resold products should be marked up, at least enough to account for the time and labor put into getting the item, cleaning or repairing it, listing it online, and interacting with potential buyers. Otherwise, resellers would be operating at a loss.
Also, keep in mind that most reselling platforms charge commission and shipping fees, so the price you pay isn’t anywhere near what the reseller is getting. Poshmark, for instance, takes a 20% cut (with a minimum $3), and you must use their shipping labels ($7). So if I list an item at $10, the buyer pays $17, and I only get $7.
Of course, there are some questionable sellers who try to sell Walmart pants for $40, or try to pass off a 5-year-old sweater as “vintage.” That’s just scammy. But, we need to understand that there’s a difference between ripping people off and running a legitimate business.
But what about resellers “taking away” clothing from the local community? Since resellers tend to buy more than individuals, isn’t that a problem? Again, there’s still such an excess of wearable clothing in thrift shops, so I don’t think this is cause for concern. Unless, of course, you’re literally buying entire sections of the store, like all the kid’s shoes. Or, if you’re shopping at low-volume stores and actually taking all the nice pieces. When in doubt, you can always speak to the manager and ask about their stock.
In some ways, reselling can also make secondhand clothing more accessible. At this point, I actually want to bring on a reseller to chat with us about her experience running her business, how it’s impacted her life, and some benefits of reselling.
Interview with Jade from LavenderHazeLA
A big thank you to Jade for taking the time to chat with us!
First, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your reselling business?
My name is Jade, and I’m on Depop and Instagram as @LavenderHazeLA. I’m 23 years old, and am from Los Angeles. I’ve been reselling my clothing and thrifted clothing on different platforms since I was 11 years old.
Nowadays, I’m primarily on Etsy and Depop, where I work as sort of a personal stylist. I curate boxes based on my favorite 90s TV characters and Instagram fashion bloggers, which is so much fun. I put these together with clothing that I source from thrift and consignment stores, as well as online marketplaces.
I’m starting my last year of undergrad at UCLA this fall, and I’m very lucky that my reselling business has kept me afloat during my six years as a college student, from community college to UCLA. I was even able to quit my retail job to focus on school.
What inspired you to get into thrifting and reselling?
Thrifting has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember—my mom would bring me thrifting all around Los Angeles as a child. We would shop secondhand for home goods and clothing we needed, but my favorites were always the stationery and toys.
As far as reselling, I was inspired to get into it mainly on Facebook, when I was in middle school. I noticed girls trading and selling their clothing, and I thought it was a creative way to get more trendy clothing, as my family didn’t have much money to buy new often.
After selling my preowned clothing and upcycling some thrifted items while in school, I officially started my reselling business my first year of community college in 2016. I was inspired to do so after watching The True Cost documentary on Netflix, and learning more about the fashion industry in fashion school. I felt that there needed to be a change, and that secondhand clothing needed to be accessible and cool for young people. I started selling on eBay and from there it has evolved a lot into what it is now.
How has thrifting and reselling impacted your life?
Before I was even really cognizant of the importance of buying secondhand for sustainability, I definitely feel like thrifting helped me to develop my own style. I couldn’t follow all the trends growing up because I was limited to what I could find thrifting, but that led to me finding styles and silhouettes that I felt were true to me.
As far as reselling, I think it gave me purpose in one of the most confusing points of my life. I was just starting college, getting out of an abusive relationship, and was completely dissatisfied with an industry I thought I wanted to be a part of for a career. I realized I could have an impact on something that was important to me, and create an income for myself, allowing me to focus on college and transferring to university. Now, as my business evolves, it’s helped me identify my creative and professional strengths.
An example of a Twiggy 60s-inspired style bundle
Last question: I feel like the reselling community has been unfairly criticized lately, and we don’t often hear about the positive side of the community. What is one way you feel that reselling has positively impacted local communities or the sustainability movement?
This has been definitely a hot topic lately and it’s discouraged me in certain ways. I do believe, however, that there are a lot of positives for individuals, communities, and the overall sustainability movement.
Firstly, if we want folks to shop secondhand, I believe it’s important we make these items as accessible as possible to as many people possible. Not everyone has a thrift store near them, or is able to stand for the amount of time it takes to shift through clothing. Resellers are doing the work of finding items, repairing items, and populating them on marketplaces where someone can purchase them, instead of buying new.
Secondly, many resellers are lower and middle class people operating small businesses, who like myself, use this income to get them through college, stay home with children or an elderly parent, or have a flexible work schedule (which is especially important for people with disabilities). I hope more people will see the value in it and even try it out for themselves.
Back to me: again, a big thank you to Jade for sharing her thoughts and experience with us. Please check out her Depop and Instagram (she also now has her own website)! If you’re interested in her bundles, she also has a YouTube video on her styling process.
I hope that mini-interview segment gave you a better understanding of reselling, and how it can be a legitimate way to earn a living, and increase accessibility to secondhand items.
And just to offer another perspective, to try to be objective: I can understand why some people find reselling questionable. You might also argue that taking an item from a thrift store and raising the price to resell online (even to a fair price) is making the item less accessible, as there are some who can no longer afford it. While it’s now more accessible to people who can’t physically go to thrift stores, there are still some trade-offs. That said, I don’t know if this is cause for major concern, as there’s still so much unsold clothing in general. At the end of the day, I don’t think reselling is problematic, if resellers are sourcing their items mindfully.
Benefits of the Normalization of Thrifting
The coolest thrift store in Montréal: Eva B
Next, I wanted to talk a little about the history of thrifting, and how its normalization can actually be a good thing. TIME Magazine reports that back in the day:
…there was a stigma attached to wearing used clothes that had been owned by a stranger. Not only were the items themselves a sign of a lack of money, but there was also bias against the people selling them. Used clothes were often available from pushcarts predominantly started by Jewish immigrants, whose professional options were often constrained by anti-Semitism. That prejudice rubbed off on their wares. For example, the May 3, 1884, issue of the Saturday Evening Post ran a satirical story about a girl who got smallpox from a dress she bought from a Jewish-owned resale shop.
That got dark really fast…But this definitely shows us that thrifting and reselling have historically been stigmatized. I actually wonder whether the negative opinions of reselling actually derive from this historical stigma.
Nowadays, there still may be some stigma attached to thrifting, but it’s definitely more accepted. People who grew up low-income often mention how they used to be ashamed to thrift. People have mentioned literally hiding in stores when they saw people they knew, or how their parents used to make them call Goodwill “the Boutique,” so that other kids wouldn’t know they shopped secondhand. (This is based on some comments on Sarah Hawkinson’s video on the ethics of thrifting). But basically, now that thrifting is normalized, people tend to feel less ashamed about it.
(It’s obviously icky that thrifting is only “cool” when wealthier people do it, but I do think the normalization of thrifting still has some benefits).
We also can’t forget that charities are often behind thrift stores—the stores themselves aren’t necessarily the charities. Shopping there helps support their programs. For instance, at Out of the Closet, a thrift store chain, they say that: Ninety-six cents of every dollar collected at our stores directly fund AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s HIV/AIDS programs and their new housing services, as well as on-site pharmacies and free HIV testing.
Of course, the big corporate giants like Goodwill and Salvation Army have a lot of controversies and might not be as charitable as we think, so this doesn’t always apply. But if you’re shopping at a store backed by a reputable organization, your dollars are probably doing a lot of good for the community. This includes resellers, who often help stores reach their fundraising goals!
I think the question of pricing often comes down to the stores themselves. They need to find an equilibrium between offering affordable clothing to low-income families (if that’s even their goal) AND being able to generate money for their programs.
4 Tips to Thrift More Consciously
In general, I really don’t see a problem with thrifting or reselling, but there are ways to be especially mindful of populations in need. My 4 tips are:
1. As individuals, buy what you need and know you’ll wear.
This helps ensure that you’re not stuck in this endless cycle of overconsumption and disposable fashion. Of course there’s still an excess of used clothes, so encourage your friends and family to shop secondhand when they need certain pieces!
2. If you want to be super careful, shop at consignment or vintage stores.
Some people have recommended buying from a sustainable brand if you can afford it, instead of going to thrift stores. I disagree with that, as shopping secondhand is always better sustainability-wise than buying new, even from an ethical brand. Also, given the excess amounts of clothing, it’s clear that we need more people to buy used clothing.
If you’re especially worried about “taking clothes away” from the needy, there’s a better solution. Just avoid stores in low-income neighborhoods, and instead shop at higher-end consignment or vintage stores (thanks to Jade for this tip!). For individuals and resellers, estate sales can also be a gold mine for inexpensive but high-quality pieces.
Again, I don’t think there’s need to avoid thrifting altogether, especially since your money often goes to good causes, but if you live in an area where thrifting is truly a necessity, then this may be a good option.
Of course, there are merits of shopping from a sustainable brand, as we do want to support companies doing good. If that’s what you want to prioritize, that’s totally cool too.
Thought these pants were super cool, but didn’t end up getting them because I didn’t think I’d actually wear them.
3. Avoid buying high-need items in low stock.
There are some items that are in higher demand, and those tend to be:
- Plus size clothes
- Professional clothes
- Winter jackets
- Kid’s clothes
I don’t necessarily see a problem with buying these things “for fun” if you’ll actually wear them, but try to be mindful of the stock available, and maybe don’t purchase them in bulk. Again, you can always ask the store manager if you want to learn about general trends in the stock (“high-need” items really can vary by store).You can also talk to them to find out when they throw things out, as you can then feel more certain that you’re not “taking things away” from others.
People have also suggested going to the $1 bins in thrift stores, if you’re planning to buy in bulk. This is usually the final stop for items before they’re tossed out or shipped to developing countries.
Also, this should go without saying, but don’t take advantage of free clothing charities if you aren’t actually low-income. There are some organizations that offer free professional clothes or prom dresses, and those are specifically targeted towards people in need. Going there when you can pay for your own clothes is just wrong.
4. If you need to donate clothes, choose reputable, local orgs.
Donating is not necessarily the best way to clean out your closet, as we know that most clothing in thrift stores is thrown away. I have a whole post on how to get rid of clothes responsibly, and some alternative ideas are using FB marketplace or a site like Freecycle.org to give clothes away.
If you’ve exhausted those other options though, try to donate to small organizations that you know are doing good in your community, like homeless shelters or domestic violence centers.
The gentrification of thrifting is a pretty complicated topic, and I think a lot of recent criticism doesn’t capture its nuance. At the end of the day, I don’t think mainstream thrifting or reselling are as problematic as they’ve been made out to be.
Secondhand shopping is always better for the planet and can help support organizations doing important community work. Reselling also gives people a flexible way to earn a living, and can make it easier for people to buy used clothing. This is of course my opinion based on my research, so if you have a different one, please feel free to share.
I also want to clarify that I’m definitely not trying to minimize the impact of these rising secondhand prices. While I don’t think the rising prices are any particular group’s fault, the fact is that prices are rising, and that thrifting is becoming less accessible to some communities.
At the end of the day, we may have different opinions about this topic, but arguing about the causes isn’t going to get us anywhere. Making thrifting less popular won’t help either, and will only lead to more trashed clothing and less money for thrift store social programs.
I don’t have a good solution to those rising prices, other than to try to give your clothes directly to people in need, through community events or local organizations. We also have to remember that this is a systemic issue. Fight for a higher miniumum wage. Pressure thrift stores to start “free tables” of all the things they’re going to throw away, and to offer vouchers to people in need.
Let me know if you have more ideas in the comments, as I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you liked this post and want to support me, please feel free to share the link or buy me a virtual coffee. I’d truly appreciate it!
Other posts you may enjoy:
9 Common Misconceptions About Sustainable Fashion
Sustainable or Greenwashing? How to Evaluate Fashion Brands
Is Everlane *Actually* Ethical and Sustainable?
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Great post, Lily! I think we have talked about this in the past, and I am not really a fan of reselling. The people that I’ve seen do it seem to be from pretty affluent families so it just seems wrong to me. I like the different perspective that you shared here, and your arguments that thrifting isn’t actually an issue have definitely convinced me. I’m still on the fence about reselling, but I guess as with everything it really depends on the individual.
Yes, totally understand your thoughts, Nina! We did chat about it briefly a bit ago, and I still thought that reselling was questionable overall at that time. I agree that it can be pretty situational – I remember you bringing up influencers buying clothes to resell at inflated prices, because of their fame. If they’re actually buying up a ton of stuff and leaving nothing for the community, that’s really sad, especially since they didn’t necessarily “need” that money. At the same time, they might be getting people to buy things that could’ve been thrown away, or even introducing people to buying secondhand. It’s very complicated!
Ah, this was super interesting to read! I saw you write about this on IG and wanted to come over for a look. I think I am with you on this on what your conclusion is- yes, I do think reselling at high mark ups if you have a job anyway, is cheeky, but for those who it is their prime source of income, well, if it is allowing the item to come to a wider audience in order for it not to go into landfill, then that’s great. I bought two really nice items (in fact, which I wore on Friday) from a charity shop in Hexham and both of them had been on the regular floor for a while before being relegated to the bargain £1 floor. I spotted them instantly as they are my aesthetic- one was a beautiful mauve cotton loose top from Comptoir de Cottoniers which is an expensive shop. Yet, no one had bought it when it was in the shop (and this charity shop is fairly cheap anyway) – I bought it because I liked it, but if a reseller had bought it and sold it on, then it hadn’t been sold originally so it would be ok if an audience who knew its worth was able to have the option to buy. That said, I would hate for someone of low income to not be able to get something that they might have got because it had been bought avariciously for resell.
Bootsales are often another good place for people of low income to obtain items at reasonable prices here in the Uk.
Thanks for visiting, Kezzie! I’ve heard of Comptoir des Cottoniers, and the top you bought sounds beautiful! I agree that sometimes some really lovely finds (that are inexpensive) still don’t get picked up. I’m glad the top has now found a loving home 🙂
I’ve never heard of bootsales, but I looked them up, and they sound fun! Kind of like a flea market? I loved going to those in France.
Just want to chime in as a reseller! I think it would help if more people understood the process. It takes both time and money to resell: the costs aren’t that much but they add up: gas, packing materials, cleaning and repair products, and the items themselves. The selling platforms also usually take about 15 or 20 percent of the selling price and of the postage price.
There’s a lot of time involved: spending part of a day shopping, then cleaning everything and doing small repairs, arranging and photographing, and then choosing, cropping, and uploading photos. There’s figuring out pricing, measuring and weighing each thing, filling out listing forms and writing appealing copy, choosing SEO terms, and finally putting each thing away safely for storage until it sells. Then there’s answering customer questions, and when something sells, there’s packaging, labelling, and taking it to the post office. More vaguely, there’s the “service and expertise” of knowing what to look for and trying to choose things people will be happy to buy.
Goodwill and the people who donate to them are providing me with a job. When people buy things for themselves, as I also do, it’s great fun but it isn’t giving someone a job. I don’t make very much money but I’m glad to be able to do this for a living!
Thanks for chiming in, Kim! Absolutely – I know reselling is a ton of work, and platforms take a big cut. I always try to emphasize this when talking about reselling, as many people don’t realize this, and think it’s price gouging when resellers actually aren’t making much. Thanks for making secondhand clothing more accessible and helping people find what they’re looking for!
Thank you for writing this! I’m writing a post on this ‘controversy’ for my university’s sustainable fashion organization and this is the first article I’ve found while researching that thoroughly covers every point for both sides of the argument! Happy to see that we’ve come to a lot of the same conclusions 🙂 Thrifting is wonderful, but if people treat it the same way they treated fast fashion (a cheap/easy outlet for excessive consumption) under the guise that it’s morally superior and guilt free, it poses a huge problem (such as even encouraging those with lower incomes to shop fast fashion more as they feel their intended markets have been invaded, which is completely counterproductive). Thanks for sharing this info, and I hope you don’t mind if I link you as a source!
Hi Jessica! Yes, totally agree that overconsumption of thrifting is not the solution to anything. And no problem at all, you’re welcome to link to this as a source 🙂
hi Lilly, In the search for opinions on thrifting culture, I have come across your blog (which I love!!!). I am currently a student in my final year of schooling, and am currently completing a major work in society and culture, specifically on vintage fashion and thrifting, and sub topics such as gentrification, and the ethics behind buying second hand. I’ve found the information very useful and would love if I could email you a few questions you could answer. thank you!
Hi Lilly. I came across your article for some research I was doing. Before I say my opinion, I would like to preface by saying I am a PhD candidate in Humans and Urban Geography with a specialization in Feminist and Gender Studies. Okay now that’s out of the way, I like that your article brings a new perspective to reselling and thrifting, I always want to see as many varying perspectives as possible. However, as a plus-sized Black low-income queer woman, I have to say, you may be assessing this from a very privileged perspective (this is not an insult). Personally, I have noticed the stark impacts that this new and trendy thrifting culture has had on low-income communities. It is easier to believe that people are consuming what they need, being more sustainable or reselling as primary income for small businesses – and that is the reality for some. But, there are a lot of people simply overconsuming and actively gentrifying thrift shops or thrift culture. Inflation and corporate greed are one thing, but when the majority of young adults and teens are thrifting out of trendiness it has huge implications for others. Obviously raising the costs of clothing is one thing, but actually creating social barriers to accessing quality clothing is another. You said folks who are in need shop out of necessity so they usually don’t get the things the resellers are buying, but have you thought why? If I am shopping out of necessity, I still want to be socially included and accepted. So, the trendy clothes these low-income individuals can be buying are being scooped up and/or prices are raised and then it becomes inaccessible.
Also, I am not sure if you are aware, but thrift shops like Goodwill, actually put brand name, high-end designer clothing in locations that are predominantly white, middle to upper class. Then the remaining “normal” clothes are sent to various locations – specifically racialized, low-income spaces. So, even if they wanted to, they couldn’t access it.
Lastly, I personally feel like the idea that resellers are making clothes “more accessible” and they should increase their prices, is very dangerous but also untrue. Resellers actually make these clothes less accessible because now people who would just go to the store and purchase clothes are in competition with people who are usually more economically well off to get clothes online. Also, most low-income people who depend on these stores are not online shopping for clothes, they are lucky if they have a credit card. Often time, resellers do not modify or adjust clothing. I am aware some folks do, but it is extremely rare. Many of the people on Depop are simply buying clothes and hiking up the price with little to no investments put into the items. So, people are getting the same quality clothes for almost double the price (inflation from stores + the reseller’s price) excluding shipping.
It is very important we look at these issues, especially things that regard class, from a very intersectional view and check the privilege/social location of those involved (including ourselves). Personally, the gentrification of thrifting is an issue that involved race, class, gender, sexuality and ability. I hope this didn’t feel like an attack, I am just personally impacted by this issue and I wanted to share my views.
Hey Jade, thanks for offering your perspective! I wrote this article namely because I felt that the perspectives of low-income, often BIPOC, resellers were left out of the conversation. On TikTok, you’ll literally see white folks attacking low-income BIPOC for reselling without understanding how they source their items or even understanding their situation. It doesn’t sit sit right with me.
I also feel that this perspective is too focused on what is happening in the Global North. All the unsold, often usable, clothing donated to thrift stores is dumped in the Global South. They call it “dead white man’s clothes”. This clothing pollutes the water and land and is a modern-day form of colonialism (look up Ghana’s Kantamanto market). There is simply a huge surplus of clothing, and saying that thrifting should be less popular is only going to exacerbate this issue.
I have already addressed many of your arguments, so I’ll try to keep it brief:
1. I have pointed out that people should avoid overconsuming and taking tons of high-need, low-stock items, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
2. I have not heard before that Goodwill sends the best clothing to richer areas and the worse stuff to low-income, BIPOC neighborhoods. I have seen some “bougie” versions of Goodwill though, kind of like consignment stores, so this must be what is happening. This again seems to be a systemic issue rather than an individual one. Goodwill is trying to maximize its profits.
3. I do see the desire for trendy clothing, but I do not think we should be perpetuating/buying into the trend cycle. This fuels fast fashion, which also has detrimental effects on people in the Global South.
4. I am saying that resellers make clothing more accessible to other groups of people who may not traditionally be able to go to thrift stores physically. Your perspective dismisses the time and effort it takes to dig through thrift stores, wash items, take photos, respond to questions, etc. Again, there is generally plenty of clothing to go around, and I have specified ways people can source clothing in more mindful ways, avoiding taking resources from low-income communities.
I understand that the rising prices are causing a lot of families to struggle, and I do not mean to minimize this issue. But I don’t believe that telling people to not thrift or not resell will solve that issue, which is why I’ve suggested other ways that amy be more impactful in the post conclusion.
I’m from Canada and our thrift store prices are horrendous as well. I’m trying to get started in reselling as I just want to be able to contribute to our mortgage. I must have some sort of undiagnosed mental illness because I just don’t seem to be a good candidate for restaurant, retail, or office work. I’ve done them all in my life (almost 50 y/o) and something really bad always happens at my jobs, which results in me either stressing myself to death during my home and sleep time, or I cry at work, go home and never go back. I was bullied by a regular employee in my last job and none of the four managers there took it seriously when I told them. I’m not ready to go back to a regular job. I’m in therapy, but like I said, I just want to contribute to our bills. I started a T-Shirt thing online, I want to try low-content book publishing, and I want to try reselling used goods. Thrift stores are not my first choice since yard sale season has started. Certainly that’s not frowned up too. I don’t want to be a monster. I’ve seen the tightly stuffed racks at thrift stores here in my city AND get peeks into the back rooms where there are tons of additional stacks of clothing, vacuumed sealed in bags as tall as me! There is not a shortage where I’m from so no one should assume that everyone is stealing from the poor to get rich. We are all trying to just get by in our own way. Mine is just one possible example of many different reasons for doing this. But like literally anything else, the extreme cases, or outliers, make the rest of us look bad. The high profile people are not the norm. Not even close. I’ll be happy if I clear $1500 per month total from all my separate endeavours that I mentioned. That’s my goal!
A year late, but I noticed one issue wasn’t addressed. Our over-consumption has overburdened the thrift stores. I am a reseller and I thrift regularly. I can go to the same thrift store 3 days in a row and the amount of new merch each day is astounding. Some racks I don’t even look through because they are so full you can barely see anything without wrestling.
Items that don’t sell in the thrift store usually go to thrift outlets where prices are drastically reduced. After that the items are destroyed (literally run through a shredder) – there is simply too much inventory coming in and most third world countries no longer accept our cast-offs or it is no longer cost efficient to ship them overseas.
Fast fashion companies like Old Navy and Forever 21 make clothing on the cheap knowing the customer will be back for yet more cheap goods. We have also lost our ability to fix things. I’ve picked up many items at the thrift with one missing button or an undone hem. Why fix a $7 tee when you can go get a new one for $12?
If we want to impact how our thrift stores are being used we need to consciously seek to slow the rotation of goods through the system – mend our clothing and have items repaired when broken. Be mindful when making purchases for ourselves or others – experiences over things, perhaps. Our rampant consumerism has created a loop of waste that no amount of blame will solve.
Reselling is keeping my family off public assistance.
This. Everyone I know who resells as a job is poor, physically disabled, or psychiatrically disabled. If I lived in a rich area, I might only know rich resellers though.
An argument could be made that if you have enough money to buy things at thrift stores for fun, you’re the one who’s “taking” from people who are doing it for a job. Between shipping costs, commissions, vehicle costs, and then just my normal cost of living, if I don’t get things I can sell for $30 for less than $2 or so, I don’t make money.
Most thrift stores are more than willing to give people things for free if they really need it. Often they will also keep an eye out for certain items to set aside for them, if someone asks. Of course asking isn’t fun. Lowering things across the board would unnecessarily affect resellers and thrift store employees AND for-fun shoppers, whereas giving goods directly to the people who need it actually saves them money, and also means that thrift stores have more income for that kind of charity.
It’s the same as how it wouldn’t make sense to make all groceries extremely cheap. That would hurt so many people across the board, while still making the poorest people have to pay. I think this is a community problem, not a business problem.
I blame the thrift stores. The prices have gone up, and a little is okay, but I was thrifting yesterday and was shocked at how they had jacked up the prices. It’s not right, because if the stores have this mentality of wanting to charge more because of resellers, do they even realize that the person they are really harming is the one who needs those items to get by?? Not everyone is a reseller, a lot of people simply can’t afford to pay $40 – $60 for a pair of shoes! In my opinion, thrift stores have forgotten who they are really serving. And they (thrift stores) need to suck it up and understand that resellers will always be around and that raising prices to try to make more money themselves is unethical and unfair. Just make everything affordable for everyone, end of story!
This might be more true for for-profit thrift stores, but as you probably know many thrift stores are entirely volunteer run, and even though they save some operating costs by being non-profit, there is still rent to pay, volunteers to find and try to retain, recycling and trash costs, vehicle and fuel costs, heating costs, repairs, and so on. Many volunteer-run stores donate their profits to charities or food banks, women’s shelters, after-school programs, and so on. That way the money can go directly to helping those who need it. Lowering costs across the board would actually hurt places like food banks and shelters. Relying on thrift stores to directly serve low-income people doesn’t always make sense. It might be better to operate them as fundraisers for more targeting programs.