An Inside Look at Thrift and Consignment Store Shopping

thrift_store_shoppingWith the economy still in a slump, and being on a tight budget as a college student, dressing to impress can feel like an uphill battle. However, there is an oasis out there in the dry, lonely desert of college broke-ism: thrift and consignment stores. While the image of shopping at places like The Salvation Army or Goodwill might not seem ideal for fashion trends, there is a lot to offer shoppers and it allows them to buy different items that can be a good foundation to a wardrobe.

While it may seem like any other type of shopping, there are some things first timers should be aware of beforehand. The first thing is that there is a huge difference between thrift stores and consignment stores. While both do carry clothing for secondary sales, consignment shops often have newer designs and brand names stocked on their shelves. Both types are useful resources for building a fashionable wardrobe at a reasonable price, but for those who are all about the labels, consignment stores might be a better fit.

“We get clothes in daily except for Sunday, so we have new items out for our customers every day,” said Taylor Desantis, the Assistant manager at Back On The Racks, a local consignment store located near Brighton Avenue in West Long Branch. “Some people can’t afford clothes, so we try to offer people higher end clothes for a cheaper price.” Besides saving money, there is also the chance to make money with certain stores like Back on The Racks where clothing donators get 40 percent of the sale of which their item sells.

While this may seem like a dream come true for fashion lovers that are hunting to sniff out the best deals, there are things that they should keep in mind while hitting the racks. One of the first things is to have a set budget. This will help keep the proper mindset while shopping and keep you from being overwhelmed from the mass amount of options at extremely reasonable prices, but also think out of the box with certain pieces as well.

“When you walk into a consignment store, there is a lot to look at,” Desantis added. “So maybe keep in mind something that you need like a skirt or a shirt. Browsing always helps too, but you have to keep an open mind about it too.”

Don’t forget that most of the items have been worn, so there is a high possibility that the merchandise has been slightly damaged and tattered, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a deal breaker. Instead use it as a bargaining chip, especially if you can fix the defect within the item. Don’t feel that you have to settle for what you have in front of you with the fear of missing out on a great deal.

University alumnus and thrift store shopper Kate Nawoyski said, “When it comes to thrift shopping, look at every little defect to the item and if it’s something you can live with, maybe it’s unnoticeable to the average eye, or something easy you can fix, buy it.”

Nawoyski added, “Don’t be scared to bargain to get the price of the item down. Just make sure it’s not something that makes the item look terrible. Maybe it’s just a tiny pull in the fabric or a scratch on a mirror. Use whatever you can to bargain.”

Also, remember that researching what specific pieces are going for at other stores and even online can help if you feel that item is overpriced, but worth haggling for. This can go for any items, even furniture which can be found at thrift stores too.

A sophomore communication major Mallory Majasa said, “I always look for something that I can change.”

Majasa started shopping in thrift stores as a teenager and since then has created different pieces from shorts to shirts, with her purchases. She said, “It’s still a way to be trendy and be on style but you also save a lot of money, and it’s fun to make your own pieces. I love to buy old mom jeans and cut them off into high-waisted shorts, because that is in style right now. “

And the thrift store scene has been rapidly growing, as stores like Back On The Racks has now expanded to four locations within the West Long Branch area and Bayville. However, there is more value to the experience then what is written on the price tag.

“My mom used to take me and made things from the stuff she bought, and now I do it almost as my own personal little craft,” Majasa said. “For example, I needed a desk for school because I was living in a house off-campus. So I bought one from a thrift store, sanded it, and repainted it with bright fun colors. Now I have a piece of furniture that is truly my own and I have gotten several compliments on it.”

Thrift shopping is not only saving you money. Specialist communication professor Mary Harris said she likes to thrift shop because it is environmentally friendly. Using recycled pieces allows less materials to end up in landfills. Plus, it gives people the chance to mix and match different styles.

Whether you need a dress, necklace, dress shirt or even a desk, shopping at consignment stores like the Goodwill or Salvation Army gives those the chance to be creative with their wardrobe no matter what their budget is, but especially helps those who might be short on cash. So take advantage of making someone else’s throwaways into your own fashion treasures.