A rising trend has been sweeping the college-age demographic: thrift shopping.
Even before the recent release of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” many college students had taken an opportunity to go to a consignment shop and see what clothes, shoes and other things they could get for a pretty reasonable price.
Behind the glass doors of the Salvation Army awaits a vast array of clothes, shoes, books, jewelry, toys, appliances and so much more.
Rows of different types of clothing from blouses to pants to wedding dresses stretch across the length of the store and most of the width. A very small section of the store holds items such as books, appliances and furniture; however, customers still walk by and examine them.
At the very front of the store, shoes sit in rows of racks organized by size and type of footwear. Boots lie in a separate section.
Even though people aren’t always guaranteed to find something they want in their size, some students like to go just to see if they can find anything they like.
Twenty-one thrift shops are in business in Erie alone. Some of them include Salvation Army, Goodwill, The Thrifty Shopper, The Sassy Peacock and Plato’s Closet. Several of these thrift stores donate the proceeds of their sales to local and/or national charities, making this rising hobby a benefit to the community.
Melissa Gibbons, district manager for two Salvation Army stores in Erie, said of the average 400 customers per day – 500 when clothing and shoes are half-off – about one-third are college students.
Gibbons said she thinks thrift stores such as Salvation Army appeal to students because they offer a wide selection of different items at an affordable price.
“Our stores always have something to match what the students are looking for,” Gibbons said.
Amongst college students, one of the most commonly bought items is clothing.
Gibbons said one of the appealing things for college-age students is that the store gets donations of name-brand clothing – such as Aeropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister – and can sell the clothes for $5 as opposed to $35 if they were purchased new.
Most college students try to save money wherever they can.
Christina Zappa, a junior sport and exercise science/pre-physical therapy major at Gannon University, said she went thrift shopping with her family when she was younger. She continues to shop at thrift stores now because she is on a college budget and the clothes are generally inexpensive.
Zappa said she enjoys shopping at H&M, Forever 21 and Payless Shoe Source for new clothes. These stores appeal to her because they have cute clothes that are affordable. She also likes to go to thrift stores because she can find things that went out of style and are starting to make a comeback without breaking bank.
“I can usually find ways to modify thrift-store clothes so they look cute,” Zappa said.
Zappa said in regards to thrift shops, she generally goes to places such as Salvation Army and Goodwill because both stores have a wide selection of clothes and shoes to choose from, depending on which day you go to shop.
When she goes to thrift shops, Zappa said she usually buys things such as oversized sweaters and dresses – anything that she thinks can easily adjust to her body.
Zappa said many of her friends enjoy going thrift shopping too, so it’s become somewhat of a hobby.
“Going thrift shopping with a group of friends just makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable,” Zappa said.
One of the friends she likes to go shopping with is Mary Carroll, a sophomore occupational therapy major.
Carroll said she began thrift shopping because her friends at home did it so she would go in groups with them on occasion.
Carroll said she mostly goes to thrift stores to shop for dresses, but she sometimes buys purses, sweaters and jewelry. In her hometown – Rocky River, Ohio – she usually goes to places like Goodwill and Value World because the stores carry a unique selection; she can always find something she likes there and the stores are good places to shop for Halloween costumes during October.
Carroll said in Erie, the only thrift store she’s been to is the Salvation Army, but she thinks it’s a quality store.
Gibbons said many students who come into Salvation Army look for items that fit a certain theme, and not just during Halloween. These instances range from looking for a bed sheet for a toga party to finding high-waisted shorts and “clunky” jewelry for a 1980s-themed party.
While hitting the consignment shops is a common occurrence for several college students, not all of them are jumping on the thrift-shopping bandwagon.
Kristen Weaver, 20, of Pittsburgh, said she prefers not to shop at thrift stores because of the lack of cleanliness.
Weaver said she thinks thrift stores are dirty, smelly and that they don’t do a good job of sanitizing things. She also doesn’t think that many thrift stores do a good job of washing the clothes donated to them or sorting through them.
“It’s just not my ideal place for buying things,” Weaver said. “Some of these stores make me feel like I could get lice.”
Weaver said she generally tends to shop in places such as Macy’s, Juicy Couture and Nordstrom because she thinks the clothes they sell are really high quality.
“They use some of the best materials,” Weaver said, “I appreciate a lot of name-brand, U.S. designers as opposed to the stuff you find from factories overseas.”
Weaver said wearing name-brand clothing is important to her because a name brand shows that you care about being well-dressed and presentable.
Carroll said she thinks it’s a good idea for people who are skeptical about consignment shops to open up and give the experience a try.
“You can find some really nice things for a low price,” Carroll said, “and it’s a good way to save money and recycle.”
Weaver said she has been to thrift shops on occasion – whenever her friends drag her there. She’s indifferent to being inside of a thrift shop, but she’d never buy clothes there because she likes to wear brand new clothes.
Although she doesn’t like to go shopping there herself, Weaver said she doesn’t judge people who like to partake in thrift shopping. She just doesn’t feel the need to do it.
Carroll said before she went thrift shopping, she thought the idea of it was kind of gross.
“I thought thrift stores were full of ‘80s, outdated, gross, smelly, armpit-stained clothes,” Carroll said. “A lot of them are, but they have some good stuff there too.”
Zappa said she can understand that some people don’t want to go to thrift stores because they have an aversion to wearing used clothes, but if you’re afraid of uncleanliness, you can always take the clothes home and wash them.
Gibbons said most of the time when she sees people in the college demographic in Salvation Army, the students usually go in groups. She said she thinks part of the reason some students go to thrift stores is not only to go find something they need for a low price, but for the experience, too.
“The students who come in always seem like they have fun with whatever they’re looking for,” Gibbons said, “and watching the students have fun as they look through the clothing racks and try what they find on is fun for the people who work here, too.”