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Walnut Creek Magazine

Secondhand Shopping Is out of the Closet

Apr 20, 2018 03:32PM ● By Deborah Burstyn

Secondhand Shopping Is out of the Closet

As the stigma fades, fashionistas embrace the fabulous prices.

By Deborah Burstyn

Don’t blame Amazon. Experts say the online retail giant isn’t responsible for the steady decline in America’s decades-long retail buying binge. In 1977, clothing accounted for 6.2 percent of U.S. household spending, according to government statistics. Four decades later, it’s plummeted to half that, says a recent Bloomberg Business report titled “The Death of Clothing.” There’s been a priority shift. Experiences – dining, travel, and entertainment—now account for nearly 20 percent of American spending. While retail numbers are down, resale clothing has mushroomed into an $18 billion annual business, with about $2.3 billion spent on specialized secondhand apparel websites and the rest scrutinized, tried on, and purchased at local stores.

Resale Chic – It’s not your mother’s thrift shop

Luxury consignment and a wave of recycled designs are getting a moment in style. Often confused with thrift shops, consignment stores tend to be higher end. They also operate as a business rather than a charity. At a thrift shop, clothing is donated and proceeds go to a good cause. By contrast, people don’t donate clothes to a consignment store. They sell them. Consignment stores either pay cash on the spot or a cut when an item sells. They also offer in-store credit for goods. You hand over your items then pick out different ones on the racks. They get new stock to sell and you get some different things to wear.

Keep in mind consignment stores are choosy. They cherry pick the best of what people are selling. Mint condition, current styles, and a certain eye-catching chic. With a focus on hot brands like Kate Spade, Tory Burch, and 7 For All Mankind, you’re getting a cool garment at a sweet price.


Secondhand as a sustainability strategy

Another upside to the resale trend is environmental: 75 percent of the 80 billion pieces of clothing produced annually end up in landfills. “Sustainability is a big deal to millennial shoppers,” says Shawn Grain Carter, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in a recent Bloomberg article. “They have a sense of corporate responsibility and they find nothing wrong with recycled clothing. Buying used does not have a stigma whatsoever.” Data from resale giant ThredUP shows that 75 percent of millennials and 52 percent of all customers shop second-hand because it aligns with their environmental values. If the 70 pounds of clothing Americans throw away every year were recycled, it would keep 6 million items out of landfills.



In downtown Walnut Creek, between Locust and Main streets, you’ll find a surprisingly good selection of shops to check-out.

LABELS LUXURY CONSIGNMENT 1367 N. Main // Head here for status and swank. Louboutin, Chanel, Hermes, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Louie Vuitton all line the shelves. Find fabulous formal gowns for a fraction of their original cost. That said, price tags are not “thrifty,” so be sure to check the sale racks.

MAIN STREET RAGS // 1380 N. Main  In Walnut Creek for over 40 years, this shop’s apparel offers sophisticated charm. Midrange selections include Anne Taylor, Lili Pulitzer, and Banana Republic. Dresses are helpfully grouped by color.

DISCOVERY SHOP // 1538 Locust An exquisite array of dressy jackets is easy to find here, perfect for a show at the nearby Lesher Center. Clothes are a cut above the average thrift shop; jewelry too. And you might find a piece of vintage Pyrex or a teak salad bowl to take home. Plus, all proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.

THREDUP // 366 N. Main From Alice+Olivia dresses to Lululemon leggings, the clothes here skew young and young at heart. The latest entry to the consignment scene, this chain recently opened in Walnut Creek.

THREADS // 1341 N. Main Tucked in an alley, this shop reflects the youthful energy and creativity of its owner. Expect to find clothes beyond the ordinary – like a black cotton sleeveless dress patterned with white cats. A vintage picture frame displays dangly earrings and a nice selection of sunglasses.


Game Changer

A former web-only resale clothing company, thredUP chose Walnut Creek for its second brick-and-mortar location—the first is in Austin, Texas. “We noticed that online, Walnut Creek is one of our strongest markets. We have thousands of shoppers here,” says Turner Deering, store experience manager.

Just who are these Walnut Creek shoppers? Customers range from savvy teens looking to stretch their clothing allowance, to stay-at-home soccer moms wanting to keep up appearances without denting baby’s college fund, to boomers trying to freshen up their look for less. With its new storefront retail presence, the company is hoping to build on its Internet popularity and convert the squeamish with an upscale-looking space. “We offer a shopping experience that’s more like regular retail but with second-hand prices,” says Deering.

ThredUP is a game changer in the consignment clothing scene. For one thing, it’s corporate. Launched in 2009, it has grown to a $21.49 million company with nearly 100 employees. Its website adds 1,000 new items each hour. According to company data, the number of items sent by individuals for resale has swelled from 2 million in 2014 to 14 million in 2016 (which the company claims has equated to $58 million paid to sellers over the past five years.)

Trendy looks are dressed on mannequins for styling inspiration. A $6.99-and-under rack shares prime space with a luxe rack that holds a $969 Chanel jacket, the brand most requested, according to Deering. Thinking about selling your clothes? They take mint pieces in current styles. From H & M and Old Navy to Free People and Marc Jacobs, the brand doesn’t matter if the item is fresh and appealing. Sellers are given “Clean Out Kits” to take home and return by mail or to the store. In return, thredUP offers in-store credit or a cash gift card. “We’re making it convenient to keep clothes out of landfills,” says Deering.

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