Back-to-school bargain-hunters seek second-hand stores
When it came time for Sandra J. Maloney to take her 11-year-old granddaughter shopping for back to school clothes, she went through a half a tank of gas searching for the best bargains.
And a half a tank ain’t cheap these days. Neither are school clothes.
“Kids are into brands,” said Maloney, of Honeoye, N.Y. “Those brands can be very expensive.”
T-shirts her granddaughter Taylor Van Thof wanted cost anywhere from $40 to $60. They were from popular, trendy stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, and Express.
“I let my granddaughter pick what she will wear,” said Maloney, “but there are guidelines — and $40 for one shirt does not meet my guidelines.”
Maloney and her granddaughter left the mall empty-handed.
As economic uncertainty and high gas prices continue to grip the nation, people like Maloney are delaying new clothing purchases, opting instead to wear what is already in their closets, or putting a little extra effort into finding good values on quality clothing.
That’s been good for some businesses — those specializing in second-hand goods.
There are no national estimates of the size of the used-clothing industry, since most of the country's 20,000 resale shops are individually owned and many other sellers operate online. But Goodwill Industries, one of the largest players, sold $1.8 billion worth of donated goods — much of it used clothing — at its thrift shops in 2007. That's a 67 percent increase from 2001.
Lucky for Taylor, someone at the mall suggested she and her grandmother head to a store called Plato’s Closet. The store buys brand name, gently used clothing items and sells them at discounted prices.
For Taylor and her grandmother’s purse, that meant a shirt that normally would cost around $40 was selling for about $7.
“Teenagers are looking for ways to stretch their dollars while staying trendy with fashion — especially at the start of the school year,” said Diane Joseph, owner of Plato’s Closet. “We offer a way for them to buy quality, gently used brand-name clothing, and still have money left for gas.”
Lena Revutskaya, of Churchville, N.Y., wasn’t back-to-school shopping or looking to sell any clothes — her mission was shoes.
“My daughter told me about this place, and I love the discounted prices,” said Revutskaya with an arm full of shoes.
When it comes to back-to-school shopping, clothing isn’t the only bargain parents are searching for. New sporting equipment can be pricey — $40 for a baseball glove, $100 for hockey skates or $200 for a tennis racquet.
Back to school season is always a busy time at sporting goods stores but the past few weeks have seemed even busier than usual.
Pat Quinn, the director of the new and used sporting goods store, Play it Again Sports, suspects that the increase in people purchasing used gloves, skates and racquets is because of the economic pinch and ever-increasing gas prices.
He said there are ways for parents to provide their children with sports equipment and merchandise without emptying their wallets.
“We provide an easy way out,” Quinn said. “Not only will we buy quality used sports equipment from shoppers, which allows them to make an extra couple of bucks, but we also provide budget-friendly used and new merchandise for them so that they don’t break their bank accounts.”
For Taylor and her grandmother, the proof was on the receipt — six “gently used” shirts for the price of a brand new one — priceless.
Contact Robert Barlow at (585) 394-0770, ext. 320, or at email@example.com.