Holding up two designer blouses inside Martinez consignment store Second Time Around, Deborah Hall marveled at the money she’d be saving with the purchases.
The affordability of a brightly-colored Dana Buchman shirt and floral Chico’s tunic, costing $15 each, enable Hall to make the two pieces additions in her wardrobe that wouldn’t be possible if she had seen them in a traditional retail store.
“I would have never bought them,” the Martinez resident said. “I wouldn’t go shopping there. I just can’t afford it. I know it’s out of my league.”
Thrifty purchases have been a part of Hall’s shopping routine since she was a child, but for others, the fallout from the recession has made them more conscious in making selections.
“I’ve seen a big change in the way my friends shop,” Hall said, recalling how many requests she now gets from pals and family members for help securing a great find for cheap. “It’s like a treasure hunt.”
Consignment shops and thrift stores across the nation saw an uptick in business from consumers pinching pennies during the recession, and those establishments are continuing to flourish, according to experts.
The National Association of Resale Professionals states the industry has grown by about 7 percent in the past two years, with more than 25,000 resale, consignment or nonprofit shops open in the country.
Citing statistics from market analysis provider First Research, the association concludes that the resale industry generates about $13 billion annually.
Periods of economic downturn introduce secondhand stores to a new wave of shoppers, who tend to maintain their new buying habits once they realize the savings and high-quality merchandise found in such shops, said Adele Meyer, the association’s executive director.
Robin Trevathan has managed Goodwill Industries’ retail center in Augusta since it opened in the summer of 2010, a year into the economy’s slow path to recovery.
“With the economical struggles that many people experienced and are still experiencing, more people are holding onto what they have versus buying new,” Trevathan said. “This has had an impact on the quantity and quality of the things that are donated. We also saw people that wouldn’t normally shop at Goodwill are now some of our most regular shoppers.”
Local resale stores are abounding in the recession’s wake. Age-specific franchise outlets, such as Kid-to-Kid, Uptown Cheapskate and Plato’s Closet, join a plethora of other clothing, book, home décor and furniture consignment stores across the area.
Cindy Guy, who runs Lollipops Children’s Clothing, took over the kid-centric business on Baston Road three years ago. The shop specializes in clothing, toys and furnishings for newborns up to 12-year-olds.
Guy said she hasn’t seen any sign of a slowdown since she’s operated the store.
“It’s ongoing,” she said. “I don’t see where it has declined. People are always looking for a bargain.”
For Karen Thompson, who’s owned Second Time Around for 33 years, the boom in business she got after the recession led her to expand from a small storefront on Walton Way to triple the space on Washington Road. Once only carrying clothes, Thompson now also sells furniture and home décor pieces.
“When the economy started tanking probably around 2008, people just didn’t have the money to go to the mall and spend $80 on a top,” she said. “That’s when it really started picking up. Once people have gotten into it, they’re like, ‘Why go to the mall? Why pay those prices when I can just wait six months and go into one of the consignment stores?’ ”
Thompson said customers can find items in her store from a quarter to half off what they could in major retail stores.
“People are starting to realize that they can get really expensive clothes on a shoestring budget.”
Evelyn McNulta, of North Augusta, has always been one of those people. McNulta had taken two books, totaling $5, to the cash register at Thompson’s store. The grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of three pointed out that both her jacket and shirt had come from a resale store.
“I doubt if I ever have on anything that didn’t come from a consignment shop,” she said.
Though many shoppers in the store considered themselves longtime thrift shoppers, others said the recession cemented their decisions to shop secondhand.
“We get people from all walks of life,” Thompson said. “That’s what amazes me. We get people that don’t have money and we get people that have a lot of money that come in here. And they’re like, ‘The reason I have more money is because I don’t pay full price for stuff.’”