Secondhand stores reap benefits of recession

ByABC News
December 8, 2008, 11:48 PM

— -- There have been many euphemistic labels applied to secondhand goods, including "gently used," "pre-owned" and "like new." But in the current economy, they have a new and candid label: "hot sellers."

As Americans look for ways to cut spending, they are scooping up bargain clothes, accessories, toys and furniture once owned by someone else.

"We're sorry about the economic situation, but it is a good time for our industry," says Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops.

Three-fourths of resale stores said they had higher sales in September and October, compared with the same period last year, according to the trade group. The average sales increase was about 35%.

Pam Shecter of Staten Island in New York is helping to prop up those numbers. She once made a lucrative salary, but after she was laid off, her family had to cut back.

To cut spending, she shops at garage sales, thrift stores and on eBay for herself, her husband (a freelancer who does special-effects makeup) and their 2-year-old daughter.

Among her "pre-owned" finds: a kitchen play set for her daughter for $20 at a garage sale.

"It's weird to go from feeling like you're one of the wealthiest people in the country to going to secondhand stores," Shecter says. But given her family's financial situation, she has to be "resourceful and creative."

While economic troubles are spurring secondhand sales, trend researcher Irma Zandl says, "The appeal goes beyond bargain hunting."

Some buyers, she says, like the feeling of social responsibility that comes with buying "recycled" goods, while others pride themselves on ferreting out unique and fashionable "vintage" outfits by shopping secondhand.

Myrna Skoller, who owns the Designer Resale store on Manhattan's tony Upper East Side, says her shoppers "brag about it when they get (merchandise) at a good price," she says. "It's almost a status symbol to get something cheaper."