Let’s Talk About the Gentrification of Thrift Stores

Over the past couple of years, we have seen many trends in the hopes of living more sustainably. We ditched our plastic straws for metal and replaced our plastic bottles with Hydroflasks in an effort to be more environmentally friendly. Recently, the harsh truths of the fast fashion industry have brought about another eco-friendly trend: thrifting. Although shopping second-hand has its perks, its recent trendiness has sparked issues with its ethicality.

Thrift stores, like Goodwill, are often founded with the intention of helping to fight poverty, by selling donated items at a low cost. This type of charity provides low-income individuals and families with access to clothes and other items without the burden of retail prices. Lately, through platforms like TikTok, thrifting has become a hobby among many young people. Seemingly harmless, the mass wave of thrifting for fun conflicts with the primary mission of thrift stores. When young people head to the thrift stores without a purpose in mind and leave with carts full of clothes, over-thrifting occurs. This over-thrifting can have the potential to rob low-income families of access to reasonably priced clothes, often leaving them with no other options. However, this is not the case everywhere. Some thrift stores have larger amounts of donations than others, making a cart full of clothes just a drop in the bucket compared to their other inventory. This phenomenon of over-thrifting may not be as prevalent in a store that has a large inventory. On the other hand, thrift stores in communities that see little donations and hold only small amounts of inventory at a time, over-thrifting can have a serious impact on families in need.

If you do plan on heading to the thrift store for fun, there are ways to be mindful of the community your local thrift store is serving. For instance, pay attention to the amount of inventory in the store. If there doesn’t seem to be a lot of items available, only buy what you are sure you will use. Particularly in the winter, try to avoid buying in-season items unless you are in need because items like coats and sweatshirts can be necessary for survival for some individuals. Another way to be mindful when thrift shopping is to visit different thrift stores in your area each time you go, if possible. This allows you to gauge which thrift stores serve the most people, and allow you to learn which thrift stores are the most ethical to shop from.

An even larger problem in the thrifting trend has happened through reselling platforms, like Depop. Those who make a business out of reselling clothing items have turned to the cost-friendly inventory of thrift stores for items to resell on their shops. Vanessa Delgado from the North Texas Daily writes, “ Thrifting is not wrong, but profiting off of something that people need in order to maintain their standard of living is.” The same mindfulness can be used when considering reselling thrift items for a profitable price. Low-traffic thrift stores with an abundance of inventory can benefit from a buyer shopping in bulk with the intention of reselling. Because they are building an inventory for their own store, they will often be in search of as many items as possible. If there are not many people relying on the thrift store, the store can actually benefit from the money spent by the reseller.

If you’re considering ditching the fast-fashion industry for something more sustainable, take note of how your local thrift stores serve your community, and better yet, donate to your local thrift stores as much as possible. When done mindfully, thrift shopping has the power to provide mutual benefit for individuals, communities, and our environment.


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Natalie O’Brien

Senior

Bentonville West High School

@natalieobb

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