Resale Revival: Millennials Bring Back Thrift Shopping

Madison Savedra | The PhoenixGreen Element, a thrift store near Lake Shore Campus, attracts many Loyola students who are looking to buy clothes, furniture or decorations on a budget.

Whether they’re looking for a faux fur coat, a leather skirt or vintage high-waisted jeans, thrift stores have become a one-stop shop for many Millennials, including Loyola students.

According to the 2018 annual resale report from thredUP, a fashion resale website, 40 percent of Millennials ages 18-24 shopped resale in 2017, which is more than any other generation. The data included in the thredUP report is compiled from GlobalData 2018 market and sizing growth estimates, GlobalData 2018 consumer survey and thredUP’s 2018 brand health survey (2018).

The term “thrift shopping” defines buying something previously owned, mostly referring to clothes. According to the thredUP report, apparel — clothes, shoes and accessories — is 49 percent of the current resale market.

Overall, one out of three women over the age of 18 shopped resale in 2017, according to thredUP’s report.

Talia Sierra, a sophomore psychology major, said she started shopping at thrift stores last year, and it’s now where she buys most of her clothes. She said cheap prices were what originally drew her to start shopping resale, but she also likes the unique styles.

“I like all different styles,” the 18-year-old said. “I feel like when you go to big retail stores it’s just what’s in at that moment, whereas thrift stores, it’s like everything in one.”

Two thirds — 67 percent — of thrift shoppers said they buy resale clothes to get better brands they wouldn’t normally pay full price for, according to thredUP’s report.

Zara Batalvi, an 18-year-old sophomore, said she started thrift shopping because her friends got her into it, and she liked the cheap, different clothing options.

“Everyone [around me] just thrifts already, and it’s a super easy thing to do as a friend group,” the international studies major said. “I wanted new clothes, didn’t want them to look like all the clothes I already had, and [I like] the idea of something that’s so cheap … it’s super economically feasible.”

Of all Millennial thrift shoppers, 35 percent reported the desire to be environmentally conscious as a reason for switching to thrift shopping, according the thredUP report.

According to the annual Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Advancing Sustainable Materials Management report in 2015, 15 percent of Americans’ used clothing gets recycled or donated, while the rest of it — 21 billion pounds — goes to landfills.

The production of textiles — materials including clothes, footwear and accessories — in the U.S. is quickly growing. According to an EPA report in 2009, the amount of annual textile waste grew by 40 percent between 1999 and 2009, and the amount is expected to reach 35 billion pounds by 2019.

Once recycled, about half (45 percent) gets resold as secondhand clothing, while 30 percent gets cut down and reused as industrial rags, and 20 percent is ground down and reprocessed, according to a report from the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association.

Batalvi said sustainability is partly why she enjoys buying secondhand clothes.

“That’s one of the reasons I do it, because I feel so bad when you get clothes from some store that you paid a bunch of money from, and then you just have to trash them, or you end up using them for that amount of time, and then they become waste,” Batalvi said. “I feel like I’m not only wasting my money, but there’s this overproduction of clothes … that just ends up being trash clothing.”

The Green Element, a thrift store located in Rogers Park at 6241 N. Broadway St., aims to embody both affordability and environmental consciousness in the resale market.

William Salek has volunteered at the Green Element since the store opened in 2010. He says he sees a lot of interested young people coming into the store.

“The fact that everything we sell here does not go to landfill, I think the younger generation is coming around to be concerned about the future of the planet,” Salek said. “And certainly the prices. We get quality, quality merchandise at extremely low prices.”

Maya Madjar, a 19-year-old employee at The Green Element, hopes that affordability and the “hipster” aspect of thrift shopping aren’t the only reasons people shop secondhand.

“What’s most important for me is the concept of green economics,” Madjar said. “You can choose to make sure that you rarely buy anything new, just taking out time to do things that are perhaps a little less convenient than going to Target … it’s what is most sustainable in my eyes.”

If every item of clothing was resold, waste and emissions could be reduced by 73 percent, according to thredUP’s report. To put it another way, buying used clothes instead of new ones for one year would save 165 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, 350 billion kilowatts of electricity, and 13 trillion gallons of water.

Buying used clothes for just one year would also save each person $2,420 for the year, according to thredUP’s report.

Rebecca Avila, a first-year student at Loyola’s Arrupe College — a two year associate’s degree program — said she doesn’t shop at thrift stores a lot, but likes to go every once in a while.

“I think it’s fun,” the 18-year-old said. “You never know what you’re going to find.”

Avila said she usually likes to shop at other retail stores like Forever 21, Macy’s and Akira, but sometimes likes to save money with buying secondhand.

Daelin Ruetz, an 18-year-old advocacy and social change major, said she doesn’t shop at thrift stores because she doesn’t usually find the kind of clothes she likes.

“I’m just not good at it,” the first-year said. “I just don’t have the patience for it.”

ThredUP’s report showed a large increase in thrift shoppers from 2016 to 2017, reporting 44 million women shopping secondhand in 2017 compared to 35 million woman in 2016.

Samad Alvi, a 19-year-old neuroscience major, said he’s never been thrift shopping, but would be interested in starting.

“I always think about the cool thrift stores that people go to … but, I don’t know, I feel like I just forget about it,” the sophomore said. “I don’t really prioritize thrift stores, but they’re fun.”

Sierra shared some advice for others who might be interested in starting.

“I would suggest going with friends, that way you can divide and conquer,” Sierra said. “Also, even if you just go in and you’re like, ‘I really need pants,’ … just go to that section and if you think something’s cute, even if it’s not in your size, grab it, and try it on, because what I’ve found at thrift stores is that the sizings are all weird, especially with vintage clothes.”

The resale market is already an 18 billion dollar industry. It’s expected to grow by 11 percent per year, and become a 33 billion dollar industry by 2021, according to Forbes.

“It’s like a social activity at this point,” Batalvi said. “It’s like this crazy fun experience, and I feel like if I have my friends with me, I will absolutely do it again.”

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