Why We Thrifted Pre-Pandemic & How That Will Change In The Future

Why We Thrifted Pre-Pandemic & How That Will Change In The FutureA World Without Thrifting

If you told me at the start of 2020 that I would go more than a month without setting foot in a thrift store, I would not have believed you.

But here we are. Not just me, but all of us around the world.

Despite us collectively experiencing the effects of a worldwide pandemic that has changed everything, it hasn’t changed the spirit and resilience of thrifters.

I took the opportunity at the beginning on the year to poll my Instagram followers on their thoughts regarding thrifting. My goal was to use the information to shape future collaborations I was involved with. Little did I know that that information would be a window into our thrifting history and the way things will never be the same again.

With our new normal looming before us, I decided to once again reach out to my Instagram followers and get their insight on the future of thrift.

Read on to learn some hard thrifting data and expand your perspective on second hand stores, hygiene issues, and what motivates us to keep going.

bright blue thrift store building front

(all pictures in this post were taken pre-2020)

Why We Thrift

To say that thrifting is “just a way to shop for pre-owned goods” would be an understatement. Thrifting is so much more than that!

Thrifting is therapeutic, a hobby, a way to pass time, a place for resellers, a form of giving back, a treasure hunt, a haven to unwind, a good act for our planet, and for some of us, it’s our only option from a financial point of view.

Thrifting and second hand shopping will continue to be those things to all of us, it’s just going to look a little different.

Why We Aren’t Thrifting Online

Secondhand shopping has moved online, like most retailers, but isn’t likely to gain much momentum that way.

At the beginning of the year, 22% of people I polled said they actively used second hand websites like thredUP and Poshmark to buy things online. That number has dropped to about 17% since the safer at home orders have been put in place.

One explanation for the dip is people are learning to live with less and falling back in love with the stuff they already own. This is an unintentional win for the sustainable movement!

thrift store full of stuff

I’ve also heard from many that they don’t get the same rush from online shopping that they do in stores. It’s more difficult to hunt and dig through discarded items and that’s one of the reasons that thrifting is fun in the first place, right?

When We Will Thrift In Stores Again

With stores slowly starting to open back up, when will we be shopping at our favorite Goodwill or St. Vincents de Paul?

36% of respondents expect to wait a few weeks followed by 27% waiting more than a month. (Only 14% were ready to rush out right now!)

Many of those that are waiting longer are the same who are finding contentment with their belongings and plan to thrift with more intention moving forward.

curated selection of goods at a thrift store

There’s also a case to be made that shoppers are uncertain of how thrift stores will be handling crowds and cleaning procedures. This is none more important than to the immunosuppressed demographic.

What was once an already risky way of shopping – with unknown germs and viruses hanging in air – has taken on a lethal status.

If you are in the majority of people going out, please do so with care. We owe it to them (and everyone person around us, truthfully) to be courteous and safe while shopping so they’re met with better stores and can thrift with us soon after a vaccine is found.

What Thrifting Will Look Like In The Future

So what does the future of thrift look like? After sitting at home with nothing but time to contemplate how we’re going to navigate our “new normal,” there’s been a lot of great ideas tossed around.

Shopping habits will be modified with less frequent trips to stores & time spent inside, bypassing changing rooms, gearing up with masks and gloves, washing everything with no exceptions, and skipping out on sale days.

Will thrift stores be hurt by less foot traffic during sales which are usually high dollar days? I think it’s too soon to tell what will happen but it should still be a concern.

$1 sale clothing store rack

You have to remember that thrifting is more than just shopping. Each store supports different charities or services through the donations and funds they receive. Many have been hit hard during this time and few have been able to remain open or pivot their operations to serve the community with curbside pick-up, etc.

Moving forward, they may have to cancel sale days indefinitely to avoid overcrowding, eliminate their return policy, be pickier with donations (my poll reported 80% of people won’t change the way they give to thrift stores which means the good and bad are still being contributed), and hire extra janitorial services to meet the demands of our new cleanliness guidelines which could put a huge strain on smaller stores who barely had enough staff or volunteers as it was.

Good Will Come

There’s still a lot of unknowns but like Goodwill has been saying, I also believe that good will come from all of this! It might not be right away but it’s coming.

Our thrift stores are going to be better places to shop at because they’re going to do whatever they can to make shoppers feel secure in their stores. We’re going to be better and more thoughtful consumers. And a lot of creative new ways to shop will emerge whether they be more digital ideas or in-person experiences.

I’ll say it again – the thrifting spirit is resilient and we will all be ok!

hannah rupp stands with open arms and a colorful outfit in front of an empty goodwill thrift store building


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