I’ve shopped in dozens and dozens of thrift shops across North America and have discovered the obvious: all thrift shops are not created equal.
It’s true that thrift shops have a lot in common: they all offer used goods at low prices, most in order to raise funds for a charity. Many are either entirely or partially staffed by volunteers. Their differences are usually dictated by resources – the bigger the budget, the bigger the store, the greater the inventory and the better organized it is. So you’ll have some tiny thrift shops, completely volunteer run, where nothing is priced and you get to haggle with the volunteer over what you’ll pay. Others are large and bright, well organized and things are sometimes priced higher than you’d like because staff actually know the original value of an item.
If I were Queen of the Thrift World, this is what I would ordain for every thrift shop in my kingdom:
Inventory that is clean and in good condition. If a shirt has a stain on it, don’t bother putting it out for sale – unless you’re going to sell it at a drastically reduced price. Books that have been scribbled in, stuffed animals with half their stuffing lost, puzzles with pieces missing, mugs with broken handles, none of these things should hit the floor – unless you have a section in your shop for items that could be repurposed. For example, puzzle pieces or broken china could be used for crafting. But mutilated stuffies? They should just go to stuffie heaven.
Inventory that is well organized. If I go into a thrift shop looking for a long-sleeved white shirt, I don’t want to have to hunt through racks and piles of clothing dispersed throughout the shop. I’d like to be able to go to the long-sleeved white shirt section in my size and browse. I also loathe racks that are too full. Sometimes shop owners think they have to get as much inventory onto the floor as possible, but you can have too much of a good thing. If clothing racks are crammed so full that I have to pull off each item to look at it, I tend to just leave. And round racks? Don’t get me started.
Consistent pricing. I don’t even care if a thrift shop has individual price tags on their items- in fact, sometimes it’s much more efficient to just say “all t-shirts $2, all pants $4”. But it’s frustrating when you find two items of equal value with different prices on them. I do understand the need to raise funds for charity but I prefer it when a shop places items of greater value in a “boutique” or “collectibles” section where you expect higher prices.
Friendly staff. This can’t be overstated. No matter what size or shape of shop I go to, if I am greeted by a friendly person it makes an impression on me. It also makes an impression if I have to deal with a grumpy-pants. You want shoppers to remember you for all the right reasons.
These are just a few things I look for in an ideal thrift shop – what would your ideal thrift shop look like?