Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thrift Store Shopping for the Uninitiated

Due to the price of cotton skyrocketing over 40% in the coming months, many families having cash flow issues and kids being kids, thrift stores, consignment and resale shops are becoming more and more popular. The price of a pair of name brand jeans has gone from an average of $40 to an average of $80 a pair in the past 3 years. Back to school shopping has become a nightmare for many mothers trying to economize.

The secondary market has long been an excellent source for economy minded shoppers. Many prudent moms are aware that thrift stores are not just for Halloween costumes, but are a great source for children’s clothing. Not only blue jeans, but complete outfits can be “thrifted” for a very inexpensive price.

I have been “thrifting” for many years. Lets face it, walking into a gigantic store for the first time can be overwhelming. Stores are organized in various manners. Either by gender, color, item, etc. The key to a successful trip is planning. You will need to take your time and devote about 1 hour per store. It sounds like a lot, but it almost always pays off. In fact, many thrift stores have special “sales”. It is a good idea to ask the staff for a hand out of prices and upcoming sales and events.

First, take a list. Know what items you are looking for, noting size, color and quantity. If, for instance, you will be dressing for a new job. Make a list of items you might require for that position. Blouses, dress pants, and sweaters are always a very good bargain at thrift stores. Many times priced at less than 1/3 of the amount they would cost retail. I have purchased many name brand items that still had their original tags and had never been worn.

Second, look for name brands and/or brands that you know and love. I myself, love Ralph Lauren. I have found many designer items at bargain prices. I always get a basket and do what I call a “sweep”. I grab items that might appeal and hold them for closer scrutiny. If your trip is on a weekend, this is a good strategy, as most stores are quite crowded at that time. If you are planning a Saturday trip, an early start is imperative.

Third, check, check, and re-check the items. Do a first glance  all over inspection for condition, wear, rips, etc. I have found issues even after 2 examinations.

Some simple Dos and Don’ts:

  • Never buy and item that is stained. 9 times our of 10, it will not come out.
  • Never buy an item that is ripped unless you are a VERY good seamstress.
  • Never buy and item for $5 that you can purchase new for $10.
  • Check all seams for rips, frays and tears.
  • Check all zippers, snaps and check for missing buttons
  • When purchasing jeans and pants, check the bottom leg seams for rips, tears and excessive wear.  Don’t forget to check the pockets for holes.
  • When shopping for “vintage” items look for the ILGWU label .
  • Check the tag for wash-ability. Some items can be home cleaned using store bought “dry cleaning” products.
  • If you see something you LOVE…but it! You will regret it when its not there when you come the next time.
Have fun!

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