Most people cannot tell the difference between a retail or resale purchase. Many of today’s thrift stores look the same as the average mainstream retailer. There is one significant difference between the two industries: resale offers high-quality goods to consumers at prices that are much lower than the MSRP.
Many businesses choose to close up shop every day because their customer base or revenues are not meeting expectations. The thrift store industry is going in the other direction, consistently remaining one of the healthiest segments of the American retail picture. Between 2016-2018, the number of new locations opened in the United States rose by an average of 7% annually.
There are currently more than 25,000 consignment, resale, and not-for-profit shops operating in the thrift store industry in the U.S. today.
Essential Thrift Store Industry Statistics
#1. About 1 in 5 Americans will shop at a thrift store at least once during the given year. That figure is competitive with those who state that they will shop at a major department store (21%) or an apparel store (19%). It is significantly higher than the 11.4% who say that they’ll shop at a factory outlet mall. (Association of Resale Professionals)
#2. The resale industry in the United States generates about $17.5 billion in revenues each year, with antique stores representing 13% of sales in those figures. (First Research)
#3. The total value of the resale market could be as high as $24 billion per year when indirect figures are included in the total. (ThredUP)
#4. Goodwill Industries is responsible for about one-third of all thrift store industry revenues in the United States, generating $5.9 billion in sales in 2017 from over 3,000 different locations across the country. (Association of Resale Professionals)
#5. Another leading provider in the U.S. in the thrift store industry is Crossroads Trading Company, which earned $60 million in sales in 2018 with 37 locations and 300 employees. (Association of Resale Professionals)
#6. What makes the thrift store industry unique is that there is no “typical” customer. Lots of people like the excitement of saving money while finding a treasure to enjoy. (Association of Resale Professionals)
#7. Total employment in the thrift store industry in the United States is more than 170,000 people, with a significant bump of 28% occurring between 2007-2012. (U.S. Census Bureau)
#8. The average establishment that operates in the thrift store industry has about 9 employees per establishment. Each worker is responsible for about $76,000 in sales throughout the year. (U.S. Census Bureau)
#9. 49% of the thrift industry’s revenues come from the sales of apparel items, including clothing, shoes, and accessories. 20% of revenues come from media and electronics items. Books provide 13% of sales, followed by furniture and homewares at 11%. (ThredUP)
#10. 87% of thrift store customers say that they are redirecting a portion of their spending from off-price retailers so that they can focus their spending on resale instead. (ThredUP)
#11. 71% of customers say that they plan to spend more on resale shopping in the next five years, which is equal to the percentage of people who say that they plan to spend less at department stores like Bloomingdales and Macy’s. (The Shelf)
#12. The only other industries that see an increased level of customer interest are subscription and rental retail, direct-to-consumer items, and Amazon. (The Shelf)
#13. Over 30% of women shop at secondhand stores during the year, with about 25% of the items in their closets coming from the resale sector. That figure was only 11% in 2012. (The Shelf)
#14. 70% of the first-time customers at ThredUp are also resale shoppers for the first time, which means the thrift store industry can consistently produce new customers online and offline. (The Shelf)
#15. 1 in 4 people who identify with being in Generation X say that they are resale shoppers, which is slightly lower than the 30% of Millennials who say that it is a priority for them. (ThredUp)
#16. 65% of resale shoppers say that they spend the savings they receive by avoiding the cost of new retail by splurging on experiences with their families and friends. (The Shelf)
#17. 36% of teens between the ages of 14-19 say that they have used online resale platforms for furniture and clothing. (CNBC)
#18. 13% of the most active resale shoppers in the thrift store industry have a net worth of at least $1 million. “Most active” is defined as a consumer who spends at least $10,000 on used items in a 324-month period. (ThredUp)
#19. 56 million women say that they purchased secondhand products in 2018, which is up from the 44 million who made the same observation in 2017. (GlobalData)
#20. 26% of luxury shoppers say that they also purchase secondhand items. That’s higher than the 22% of value chain shoppers who target stores like Target, Walmart, or Old Navy for items (22%) and department store shoppers. (25%). (GlobalData)
#21. 59% of consumers today say that they expect retailers to create clothes that are ethically and sustainably made. (ThredUp)
#22. In 2013, 57% of consumers said that they preferred to purchase items from an eco-minded brand. That figure rose to 72% in 2018. If you take the 18-29 segment only, that figure rises to 74%. (GlobalData)
#23. The purchase of one used item instead of a new one can reduce its carbon footprint by up to 82%. If everyone would purchase just one used item in the next 12 months, it would save 11 billion kilowatts of energy, 25 billion gallons of water, and 449 million pounds of waste. (Green Story)
#24. The equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is either incinerated or landfilled every second of each day. That means there are 108 million tons of non-renewable resources used to produce clothing each year that will never see wear, accounting for up to 25% of the global carbon budget. (The Shelf)
#25. Leather backpacks are the one item with the best resale value for the thrift store industry. Leather crossbody bags are another top seller. These two products are followed by winter coats, leather boots, jumpsuits, and sweaters. (ThredUp)
#26. Frye is the brand with the best resale value overall for the thrift store industry, followed by Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Burberry, and Ugg. (The Shelf)
#27. Some fashion pioneers are getting into the resale industry as well. Eileen Fisher customers can bring their old clothing back to receive a $5 rewards card for each item. Stella McCartney customers who consign with The RealReal receive an immediate $100 credit too. (The Shelf)
#28. 96% of senior retail executives say that they want to advance their company’s circular fashion efforts before the end of 2020. (The Shelf)
#29. 56% of shoppers say that they would purchase more items from off-price retailers like TJ Maxx if there was a secondhand apparel option for them. That figure is higher than sustainable fashion brands like Everland (52%), Amazon Fashion (43%), and luxury brands like Chanel or Gucci (33%). (GlobalData)
#30. When there is a ThredUp pop-up in a department store, then customers spend 21% more during their visit and go to that physical location 70% more frequently. (ThredUp)
#31. 60% of consumers say that they would be more loyal to a specific brand if there was a recycling program offered as part of the experience. (GlobalData)
#32. The average thrift store industry shopper replaced eight new apparel items with used items in the past year, diverting $260 of spending to the secondhand market thanks to an average cost of $32.53 per item in this sector. (The Shelf)
Thrift Store Industry Trends and Analysis
Between 1997-2012, the thrift store industry was able to double their total revenues, hire almost twice as many workers, and expand the number of independent locations at the same pace as major players like Goodwill Industries. The same result could occur between 2020-2025, with expected revenues topping $41 billion by then.
The reason for the surge in the thrift store industry is because of its popularity with younger shoppers. 49% of Millennials and Generation Z say that they prefer to shop in the resale sector instead of trying to find something that is new. This trend is especially present in the U.S. southeast region, where almost 28% of the establishments exist.
Resale apparel is growing at a rate that is 24 times faster than all apparel at the retail level. It’s even growing 7 times faster than off-price retail. If this trend continues, then expect the thrift store industry to become a dominant economic factor for many communities across the United States.
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