This story was originally published in December 2020.
Between the historic economic recession and the global pandemic, gift-giving season is going to be a little different this year. Getting gifts from the thrift store is a great way to get something personal and lasting for your loved ones without breaking the bank.
Not convinced? Some people are still stigmatized about second-hand gifts, but attitudes are changing rapidly. Studies from market research firm Mintel have shown that preference for second-hand goods has grown steadily since 2016. A 2019 study by Mercari, a resale app, found that three Americans out of five say they are comfortable receiving a second-hand item as a gift, especially something unique or particularly hard to find.
“Here we have seen this happen over the past three years,” said Ashley Matthews, owner of thrift store A Second Life in Belgrade. “Last Christmases we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people buying second-hand gifts.”
Matthews said fears this year of catching the coronavirus from second-hand gifts are largely unfounded.
“We sanitize everything,” Matthews said. “The majority of [thrift stores] To do. We spend more time cleaning than selling. There’s a lot of stigma about thrift stores being dirty. This is very far from the truth. »
There are a number of benefits to savings gifts. For one thing, second-hand gifts are better for the environment than brand-new gifts that require resources to produce, package, and ship.
“[By] by getting something that is recycled and reused, you reduce the footprint we all make on the earth,” said Fryeburg Thrift Shop Manager Ingrid Kellas.
Thrifting also helps you get lots of freebies for lots of people in one place.
“[It] is an inexpensive way to shop for many items across all categories,” said Joy Walker, owner of Miles in Motion Thrift Shop in Damariscotta. “Furthermore, finding the ‘perfect treasure’ to suit a particular person’s taste or personality is key for some.”
In addition, second-hand gifts are often less expensive than new gifts.
“Our motto is to sell it for at least half of what it costs,” said Lou Cataldo, owner of Wicked Good Treasure in Wiscasset. “It helps this consumer a bit. Their Christmas shopping dollar is much stretched when you can get great deals.
If you have a keen eye, you can get brand name items for a fraction of the price you would if you bought them new.
For example, Matthews said her thrift store is “central Maine’s largest retailer” of used Bogs boots, which she sells for between $27 and $60 a pair, compared to retail prices between $80. and $150.
“Some people will wear them for one season and get a new pair,” Matthews said. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that little kids love their Bogs boots.”
Toys are another popular gift in this regard. Heather Steeves, communications manager at Goodwill Northern New England, said Goodwill will even stock toys still in their packaging.
Thrift stores are also a great place to buy brand name appliances that are a few years old.
“We sell small appliances all the time,” Matthews said. “Keurigs [are] a huge seller. We get little Keurigs and as soon as they rise they are gone.
Sometimes thrift store items are of higher quality than newer counterparts, even though they are used.
“We all know companies just don’t make things the way they used to,” Steeves said. “When you find a vintage wool sweater, you know it’s going to be something that can last you a lifetime.”
Plus, there are some things you can also only find at thrift stores that will make particularly thoughtful and meaningful gifts.
“People who really like vintage Pyrex and some collectibles, you’re just not going to find this new in a store,” Steeves said. “I think people these days don’t want to fill their homes with disposable trash, and that’s just what the big box stores have. You have something that will last a lifetime.
Shopping at thrift stores also supports small businesses as well as important causes. Goodwill of Northern New England, for example, offers programs and workforce training for adults with disabilities. Local family-owned thrift stores are often associated with causes of their own.
“In our case, people buying their items here are making sure we can stay open so other people can get free food, clothing and hygiene items,” said Jacqueline Wycoff, owner of the Community Closet thrift store in Ellsworth. “Most thrift stores are family-owned or small. When you walk into department stores you kind of get the same things as when you shop at thrift stores, you can find the hidden gems that people will really love.
Worst case scenario? If your recipient doesn’t like the gift, Steeves said, you can just return it.