The Shift in Thrift: Goodwill Steps Up to Compete with For-Profit Resale Shops

published Jun 11, 2017
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(Image credit: Roman Tiraspolsky)

Good news, tag-popping shoppers: the thrill of the bargain hunt has officially become a massive moneymaker in the post-post-recession era, with e-commerce websites, peer-to-peer apps, and for-profit brick and mortar retailers all competing with charity shops to innovate resale shopping.

Sleek secondhand brands like for-profit reseller ThredUP have created steep competition for Goodwill and Salvation Army — and while that’s a mixed bag for the old guard, with some charity shops feeling the need to close store locations or raise prices, it’s great news for thrift shoppers in general, because it means improving both online and in-person shopping experiences and the quality-and-price equation in order to stay competitive and relevant.

This week, for instance, Goodwill of New York and New Jersey announced that it’s shuttering five of its 42 stores after outside consultants revealed that its stores lost $1.1 million in 2015. The non-profit will then streamline operations and reopen stores more strategically in places with the right demographic mix of donors and shoppers, adding drive-up donation options and other “fun, fresh in-store shopping experiences” — even sending employees to the Fashion Institute of Technology for retail development — according to Crain’s New York.

Despite the fact that the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops reports the overall resale and thrifting industry is still growing at a rate of 7 percent per year — growth attributed to more Americans becoming value-conscious and more aware of the need to reduce waste and recycle goods, attracting consumers from all economic levels — Crain’s reports that retailers whose proceeds fund charitable activities have seen their revenue slow to an annual average of only 3.3%, with projections determining it will drop further to just 1.4% between 2017 and 2022.

But the disruption in resale by for-profit competition is actually a good thing for consumers and the state of manufacturing at large: according to ThredUP’s 2017 Resale Market Report, resale disruptors and curators are growing four times faster than traditional retailers, plus 84% of resale shoppers prefer socially conscious brands that align with their values, and 65% of them spending their thrift savings experiences with friends and family. Not only that, but resale is thriving among the highest income brackets: 36% of resale shoppers earn between $250K and $1M per year!

So here’s to more “crappy dinner parties,” and less crappy thrifting.