The Shift of the Thrift

The New York Times declared about a year ago that “the golden age of thrifting is over” due to clothes created to keep up with the quick turnover of fashion trends—or ‘fast fashion’—being donated to thrift stores instead of clothes made from durable fabric and stitching.  

Detroit hasn’t escaped this trend—and the increased prices that go along with it. 

“I’ve been thrifting for a little over 15 years,” said Andrea Johnson, in an email exchange with the Michigan Chronicle. “Over the years I’ve noticed the quality of items in thrift stores has declined. Also, not as many designer items are able to be tracked down.”  

When asked why this is happening, she said, “I attribute this to people deciding to resale items on various platforms, such as eBay, Poshmark, Facebook Marketplace, etc.”

And she’s not wrong. Alana Rodriguez, owner of Mama Coo’s Boutique on Trumbell, shared a similar feeling.

“I have been in the thrifting/ reselling/ flea market game for pretty much my whole life,” she told the Michigan Chronicle in an email exchange. She has owned her boutique for six years. “I remember going to the original Salvation Army on Fort Street as a child with my mom. Back then it was out of necessity, though I didn’t know it. There was a stigma then about having to shop at places like that,  but I thought it was super dope. Finding treasures and one of a kind pieces was fun and a challenge.  

“Now as I stroll the thrift isles, seeing people checking items on eBay, or making TikTok videos it’s a whole new ballgame,” Rodriguez continued. “Thrifting has become super ‘trendy.’ Like with many trends, the demand has created a scarcity as well as a surge in pricing.  With all these new Instagram stores, pop-up shops and resellers surfacing, it’s making it super difficult for people like me who have made this a career and have been at it for years.” 

Rodriguez, a lifelong Detroiter, said the current resale and thrifting scene in the city is “disheartening.” 

“I see the new shops opening and most are outrageously priced. It’s disheartening and honestly a [crappy] feeling not being able to afford stores opening in your own neighborhood.  

“That’s one of the reasons Mama Coo’s has always had a mission to be super affordable while offering a boutique upscale shopping experience. With that being said, our mission is becoming more difficult with the resale inflation. I have had to raise prices and sourcing is a lot more tedious.” 

Nicole Delano, the owner of the resale store Hiptique Resale and Gifts, said that resale is its own cottage industry that’s very competitive—and because of that, the price would go down.  

“You would think so,” she said. “For example, eBay is a huge market. I bid and buy things from there if I’m looking for something in particular. It’s become a huge and serious business. Some people are gouging, and some aren’t.  

Delano explained the difference between thrifting and resale. 

“Thrifting is 501( c ) 3. They get the donations and can sell things reasonably cheaply. Those have been my suppliers. But I try to stay out of the immediate area to let the local people who really need to [use the stores] be able to do so. I buy a lot of my stuff online.  

“When it comes to thrifting, the prices have almost tripled,” Delano said. “What used to be a $9 jacket  easily turns into a $20-$30 jacket. [Places] like Salvation Army have gone up a bit, too.” 

She gave the example of vintage eyeglasses.  

“A pair of glasses you could buy three years ago for six or seven dollars is now sold for $10-$15. On resale those glasses would be $30-$40. 

“’Vintage’ just means ‘expensive’ now.”  

According to Delano, inflation and people jacking up the prices are two causes for the price increase.  

“Prices will go up because they can. And everybody is a reseller now—even Amazon and Wal-Mart are now selling used goods.”  

It’s to the point where clearance prices and resale prices are nearly the same for quality items, Delano said.  

And there’s the stark reality of climate change.  

“I have two children, and having sustainable goods is really important to me. Fashion is one of the biggest creators of trash on the planet, and whatever I can do to stop that, I do.”  

“There are some people who are serious about the environment, and some people are serious about their pockets.”  

The stores that supply resellers like Delano are also changing how and where they are distributing their clothes, making it harder for entrepreneurs like Delano.  

“The clothes aren’t always used. Some stores are writing off their new products to thrift stores, so the clothes still have their tags. The items aren’t used; they just weren’t sold. There are a lot of retailers shutting down, so they’re going to do what they can to save some dough.”  

Another aspect to the ever-changing world of thrifting and reselling is that, due to people donating their “fast fashion,” the quality of it gets funneled to the people who thrift out of necessity while also driving up labor costs. It takes more employees to sort through the volumes of clothes given to such a store. That cost also drives up the prices.  

Mack Avenue, where Hiptique Resale & Gifts is located, has been nicknamed “Resale Avenue” because of the number of reselling businesses there.  

“Reselling is a big business.”  

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