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The thrill of the thrift Thumbnail

The thrill of the thrift

Embracing the secondhand economy can have its rewards.

If you’ve ever bought, sold, swapped or donated a used item or piece of clothing, you’ve taken part in the secondhand economy. And it’s a pretty big market in its own right. In 2021, the global resale market economy was estimated to be worth about $96 billion USD.

Buying secondhand is certainly not a new concept. Thrift stores have been around since the early 1900s. They were originally established to help clothe the poor for a small price, with the proceeds going to charity. Consignment stores, on the other hand, got their start in the mid-1900s, selling gently used items on behalf of the original owner, who received a percentage of the sale.

Today, there are plenty of places to browse for secondhand goods. In addition to the big-name stores like Value Village, Goodwill and the Salvation Army, smaller “boutique”-style thrift and consignment stores that specialize in various brands and goods can be found in every major city. And for those who prefer to shop virtually, online options abound.

Get in on the trend

At one point in time, there was a stigma attached to buying used goods, because it signified a lack of money. Thankfully, times have changed.

Whether because of inflation or sustainability factors, Canadians have embraced the resale market. These days, you’d have difficulty finding someone who’s never bought a secondhand item; nearly 83 per cent of Canadians have shopped at a thrift store at least once. And finding something gently used and for a fraction of the original price has never been easier thanks to the emergence of sites like Craigslist, Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace.

Anything you can buy new you can likely find gently used, too. While clothing is the most common resale item, many secondhand sites and stores also offer used housewares, small appliances, children’s toys and baby equipment, as well as furniture, sports gear, outdoor equipment and even cars.

Save money, make money

Most people can’t afford to furnish their home or wardrobe with designer brands, but thrifting can help you find some covetable pieces at a fraction of the price. Over the last five years, Canadians saved an average of $723 annually buying secondhand items.

On the flip side, selling clothing or accessories through consignment stores or listing unwanted furniture or housewares on marketplace sites can be a good way to make a bit of extra cash while clearing out clutter. Canadians made an annual average of $961 over the last five years by selling used clothing and other items.

Fight fast fashion

Aside from financial considerations, many conscious shoppers are aware of the negative effects the textile industry has on the environment. Thrifting is one way to help support good sustainability practices. The mass production of clothing made from cheap materials has grown rapidly over the years – and it’s terrible for the planet. The fashion industry accounts for 2 to 8 per cent of global carbon emissions, including the use of oil-based pesticides, running harvesting machinery and transporting the goods.

Fashion has also been blamed for contributing to landfills. As much as 10 million tonnes of clothing in North America ends up in landfills each year, when most of it can be reused or recycled. Giving gently used items a second life in your closet can be rewarding knowing you have done something to save some space in a landfill.

On the flip side, donating unwanted items to a thrift store is also good practice. One item donated to a thrift store means one less item becomes garbage. So, carry on decluttering with the environment in mind.

Do good, feel good

Thrifting can be a great pastime, and having a hobby can have healthy benefits. For some people, searching through racks and shelves or browsing online to find a unique treasure is a fun way to spend an afternoon. And finding something that you know no one else has can be a satisfying reward for your efforts.

Some individuals like to search for undervalued antiques that could potentially be worth a bit of money. Or crafty types may take previously loved items and revitalize them into one-of-a-kind pieces.

Not only that, when you donate to, or shop at, a not-for-profit thrift store, you’re helping someone in need learn new skills or get a job.

Whether it’s simply knowing you’ve helped someone less fortunate, or finding the deal of a lifetime, being a part of the secondhand economy can bring on those feel-good endorphins.

The next time you want to buy something, or it it’s time to declutter your home, give the secondhand market some thought. You might be surprised how much you can earn and save – and how good you may feel.

Happy thrifting!

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