ANA, Calif. — Maria Garcia’s front yard sale held no
wrenches, blender, a Darth Vader mask — all were on
the driveway in front of her one-story Garden Grove
child’s shirt? Five bucks.
31, began holding monthly garage sales three years ago
to earn pocket money for her father who had been forced
out of the workforce by illness. Times were tough in
Orange County then and unemployment was at its peak.
days, the economy has improved. Local unemployment is
6.2 percent, slightly better than the national average.
Home prices are going up.
for people like Garcia, the lessons about thriftiness
learned during the dark times haven’t gone away.
Garcia works full time. But she also does what she can
to save cash, buying cheaper clothes for her kids and
shopping at thrift stores for herself.
says she and her sister once were big mall shoppers.
also says she hasn’t been to a mall in years.
people like Garcia taking on new habits, and rappers
bragging about 99 cent sheets, and entrepreneurs looking
to franchise garage sales, one thing seems clear:
man’s trash, that’s another man’s come-up …"
— From "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore &
stores are the Chia Pet of industries. Local and
national experts say thrift store sales grew during the
last recession — and they’ve continued to grow
during the supposed recovery of the past three years.
thrift stores are just part of a bigger trend. The
Association of Resale Professionals reports that
national sales in all quarters of the so-called
secondhand industry — including retail categories
ranging from thrift shops to high-end consignment stores
— grew more than 7 percent in each of the past two
years. And that number, they add, gives only a glimpse
of a hard-to-measure market.
who calculate gross domestic product count the value of
goods only one time, the first time they’re sold. So
it’s hard to gauge the true volume of America’s
one industry — used cars — offers a clue about the
relative popularity of used versus new.
in Orange County, Calif., used has been hot. Sales of
new cars in Orange County fell hard in 2008, the peak
year of the recession, and didn’t return to
prerecession levels until last year. But during that
same period, used car sales grew consistently, according
to the state Board of Equalization.
Finance 101. When consumers have less to spend, they
look for ways to get more for their money, said Esmael
Adibi, an economist at Chapman University.
higher unemployment rate, a loss of income, means that
people are going to choose things that nobody would have
touched (a few years ago)," Adibi said.
that trend is playing out even as those basic factors
— jobs and income — seem to be improving.
Zabala, front supervisor for the Savers thrift store in
Anaheim, Calif., said both gross sales and the number of
customers walking into the store have jumped by about 20
percent in 2012. During that same period, unemployment
in Orange County fell from 8.8 percent to 7.6 percent.
at Goodwill of Orange County have seen something
similar, saying sales at their retail outlets in Orange
County have grown steadily since 2008, even as economic
conditions have improved.
the Lutheran High Thrift Shop in Orange, which helps
provide scholarships for a private high school, has seen
double digit sales increases in each of the past three
it’s possible the fundamentals aren’t as rosy as the
economic statistics suggest. And boom times at thrift
stores might be a sign that some of the jobs created in
the past few years don’t pay enough to send consumers
back to the malls.
for shoppers like Yvonne Varela, the jobs might not be
consistent enough to keep them away from the discount
35, was laid off in 2010. Before that, she says, she
wouldn’t have considered shopping in a thrift store.
lot of my girlfriends are single moms, too, and at first
we were like ‘Oh, secondhand? That’s kinda gross,’"
since 2010 Varela has had a hard time finding
consistent, full-time work. And, on a recent Wednesday,
she was looking sifting through jeans for her
10-year-old daughter at Lutheran High Thrift.
stigma of shopping secondhand, she said, has evaporated.
are addicted," Varela said.
I call that getting tricked by a business…"
couple of years ago, a friend of Yazen Haddad complained
to him about the hassles of holding a garage sale.
idea was born.
Haddad runs Garage Hunters, an Irvine-based company that
pairs consignment store owners with homeowners wishing
to thin out.
who also sells real estate, said decluttering is earning
big bucks, and that a typical garage auction Orange
County churns out about $1,500. What’s more, his
buyers – consignment store owners — are eager for
see a lot of new buyers," Haddad said. "It’s
definitely a new market."
even a new twist in the thrift business.
May, Goodwill of Orange County expanded, debuting its
first boutique store, based in Tustin. The goal is to
offer high-end donations to shoppers looking for
high-end (but secondhand) product.
think we realized people are hooked," said Corrine
Allen, vice president of Goodwill of Orange County
I wear your grandad’s clothes. I look incredible …"
that might be a sign that something deeper than
economics is at work — fashion.
the racks at Lutheran High Thrift, not everyone is
struggling to get by.
think a lot of people if they don’t need to shop here,
they still come here," said the store’s manager,
being prompted, Barbara Rose, from Orange, said her
whole outfit was secondhand, down to the $2 pink wedges.
said she’s been a "thrifter" her whole life.
But, recently, she’s been copied by well-off friends.
Thrift store parking lots are full, she said, sometimes
with Mercedes and other high-end rides.
just a big social change, where people are very much
inviting that idea to recycle," said Savers’
front manager Zabala.
really amazing when you have customers come in, and they
completely love the thrift store. They come three to
four times a week and spend $40 to $50 each week."
shopper Lauren Zakich agreed, saying even her boyfriend
— who once had to be dragged to a thrift store — has
become an eager customer.
though I have some friends who (still) say thrifting is
gross, I think it has become a fad to wear things that
were (previously) in style," the 22-year-old said.
that’s because my generation is struggling to earn
money, even when we graduate from college."
BOOM BY THE NUMBERS
billion: The value of previously owned stuff sold last
year in thrift stores, consignment shops, swap meets and
similar outlets, according First Research.
percent: The annual growth rate in the number of U.S.
thrift stores and consignment shops since 2011,
according to The Association of Resale Professionals.
million: The number of used cars sold in the United
States through September of this year, a jump of about 4
percent from 2012, according to CNW Research.