Need an ugly sweater for a gift?
Treasures Boutique, a thrift store on West Avenue in Saratoga Springs, may have one.
There are ugly Christmas sweaters, ornaments, decorations and displays, and it all “goes out the door very quickly,” according to Kate Zumback, who manages Treasures. And starting Tuesday, all Christmas items will be 50 percent off.
During the holidays, thrift, consignment and other second-hand outlets see an influx of bargain hunters, just as stores that sell new items at full prices do. Though many of these people are looking for decorations, some are looking for gifts; second-hand stores often have new and gently used items, and store managers say they specialize in selling quality goods at low-cost.
“If people stop and think about it, thrift shops are the way to go,” said Nancy Cairns, the director of Noah’s Attic, a thrift store based at Christ Episcopal Church in Ballston Spa.
Cairns said business has picked up “a lot” in the past year and a half, and that Noah’s Attic is busy year-round. Much of the store’s traffic comes from people looking to buy clothing and household goods at minimal cost, she said.
“With the economy not doing well, we’re seeing a greater influx of people,” she said. “There’s more of a customer base.”
The recession and lackluster economy have been good for second-hand shops.
According to The Association of Resale Professionals, which serves consignment, thrift and other second-hand shops, sales and incoming inventory at resale shops has grown significantly in recent years. Between 2008 and 2009, net sales at resale shops grew 12.7 percent, bucking national sales trends; the organization notes that U.S. Department of Commerce data shows that overall retail sales dropped 7.3 percent during the same period.
Another industry survey found that 76.7 percent of the resale members experienced an increase in holiday sales in 2011, with the typical shop reporting a 37 percent increase between 2010 and 2011.
Michael Saccocio, executive director of the City Mission of Schenectady, which runs a thrift store on Route 50 in Glenville, described thrift stores as a “middle-class phenomenon.” He said that the people who shop at thrift stores are the same type of people who like to go to yard sales and flea markets — cost-conscious people who enjoy hunting for good deals.
“Thrift stores are most popular with people who are economical shoppers,” Saccocio said.
Tom LeGodais runs the City Mission’s thrift store. He said the store displays Christmas items, and decorations go quickly. The store doesn’t get a lot of toys, but brand-new toys sell well during the holidays.
In recent years, the City Mission thrift store has made an effort to cater to the store’s growing teen market by acquiring brand-name clothing from companies such as American Eagle. “They like the deals, and they like the brands,” he said, noting that a brand-name item of clothing sells for $3.49, and that shoppers can also take advantage of the store’s three for $9 deal.
Running a thrift store ties in with the City Mission’s mission of helping the poor, but Saccocio said lower-income shoppers, particularly those in urban areas, are not always aware of what thrift stores can offer. He said the Mission has made an effort to talk about thrift stores with clients, and that one of his employees brings City Mission clients on field trips, where she shows them the second-hand shops located on bus routes. Because thrift stores are typically located in more suburban areas, it can be difficult for lower-income city residents who lack cars to get to them.
But it isn’t just bargain hunters who are drawn to thrift stores.
In recent years, the City Mission’s thrift store has seen an increase in antique dealers and collectors, as well as customers searching for vintage clothing and goods, such as record players and LPs, Saccocio said.
“To me, one of the big advantages of thrift stores is that they sell inexpensive items, but they’re not cheap items,” Saccocio said. “You can find real gems in thrift stores. … One thing I’ve always loved about thrift stores is that you can’t pigeonhole who comes in there.”
“It’s definitely not just bargain hunters,” she said. “It’s also collectors.”
Zumback said most thrift store shoppers are women, but Treasures Boutique does see men and couples, as well as younger adults.
Treasures Boutique is owned and operated by Saratoga Hospital Volunteer Guild, and all proceeds are donated to Saratoga Hospital. The store does not sell electronics or baby gear. Most of the items are donated, but the store does sell some on consignment.
“We cater to the whole family,” Zumback said.
Helping Hands Thrift Store in Amsterdam opened about two years ago, and is run by husband-and-wife team Kevin and Rose VanNostrand.
The shop sells “a little bit of everything,” and has steady business year round, Kevin VanNostrand said. This week, Christmas items are 50 percent off.
“Whatever holiday stuff we get, we mark down as much as we can,” VanNostrand said.