Volunteer Erna Schultz hangs sorted clothing on racks at
St. Vincent de Paul in Waukesha in this file photo.
WAUKESHA — Walking into an area
thrift store has gone from a dark and dingy experience to a place
with nicely organized racks of clothing and pictures of smiling
faces — elements that Rod Colburn, director of operations for St.
Vincent de Paul Waukesha, said has helped to draw in younger
“The younger generation is more into thrifting and they have kind of
brought everyone else along,” he said.
For those who shop at St. Vincent de Paul or other thrift stores out
of necessity, Colburn said with the changes to the buildings’
exterior and interior appearances, they can shop with greater
Wide range of customers
“You look at the people shopping there because they had to, now you
look at the parking lots of major thrift stores, Goodwill, St.
Vincent de Paul, and there are vehicles anywhere from $60,000
Suburbans (and more),” Colburn said. “People shop there for a good
Over the past five years, stores selling used merchandise have grown
faster than traditional apparel retailers, not counting discount and
off-price chains, said David Weiss, a partner at Chicago-based
consulting firm McMillan-Doolittle. Even traditional retailers like
J.C. Penney and Macy’s are experimenting with selling secondhand
“This isn’t a fad that’s going to disappear anytime soon. This is a
generational shift,” Weiss said.
Younger people who have embraced secondhand items are looking for
furniture for dorm rooms and clothing to wear. Colburn described the
younger generation as in their teens up to age 30. He said they have
gone from pointing out their Guess jeans to the $5 bargain they got
at a thrift store.
“A lot of these kids put these clothes on and get a lot of
There’s also an element of doing what’s best for the environment.
Colburn said the best way to recycle is to reuse.
Halloween items and
others for purchase are found throughout the
Waukesha Goodwill store on Nike Drive in this file
Kenny Yoo/Special to Conley
More options for shoppers
Online, there are sites for every niche. Sellers who
don’t want to handle transactions themselves can ship
goods to companies that operate like virtual consignment
or thrift stores. At the luxury end, The RealReal deals
in authenticated luxury goods, while ThredUp accepts a
wide range of brands found at a typical mall.
Others let customers buy and sell directly from each
other, like eBay, Poshmark, Etsy, Depop and Facebook
Traditional brands and retailers are joining too.
Patagonia gives customers store credit for quality used
gear the brand can resell. Macy’s and J.C. Penney are
each putting some ThredUp merchandise in a few dozen
stores, including Macy’s stores on State Street and at
Water Tower Place, Oakbrook Center and Old Orchard malls
in the Chicago area.
In-store partnerships help San Francisco-based ThredUp
reach customers who want to touch and feel merchandise
before buying, spokeswoman Samantha Blumenthal said in
an email. The company started in 2009 as a place to swap
men’s apparel but now focuses on women’s and kids’
Raven Rothkopf, 17, joined the social resale app Depop
to shop, and decided to try selling to make extra money.
Two years later, Rothkopf, a senior at Francis W. Parker
School, estimates she sells 20 to 30 items a week
through the app.
She said she spends about four hours a day on the app,
answering questions and negotiating with shoppers.
Shopping thrift stores to stock her online store and
photographing, packing and shipping items adds extra
time. But she enjoys the buying and selling and says
she’s making “a good amount of money for a student who
doesn’t have to live off the money they’re making.”
“It’s another creative outlet for me,” Rothkopf said. “I
think of it as half social media, half business.”
Apps and websites that let consumers list their own
merchandise and set their own price might bring a higher
payout than working with a thrift store, but require
artfully composed pictures, descriptions crafted to pop
up in search results and haggling with buyers.
And stores like Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul give
back to the community, as well.
In 2018, St. Vincent de Paul Waukesha contributed $1.8
million to those in need.
It may be multigenerational. When Linda Beckstrom, 64,
of Chicago, was younger, resale shopping meant trips to
disorganized stores without fitting rooms that forced
shoppers to try on clothes in the aisles. Today, she
looks for bargains at stores like Buffalo Exchange, on a
stretch of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park with several
vintage and resale shops.