While restaurants and other businesses are struggling to adapt to post-pandemic life, a different story is being told with thrift shops. Thrift shops in Vancouver are thriving despite the continuing global pandemic.
ReTails Thrift Store at 5000 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. reopened last summer following COVID-19 restrictions. Since then, the store has seen a steady increase in sales.
Manager Alyssa Albert explained that the store has three demographics of customers: the regulars, the resellers and the treasure finders. These groups of shoppers collectively have allowed thrift stores across Vancouver to flourish.
Melissa Givvines opened Treasure Trove at 11912 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. in 2009, following the recession. She said a contributing factor was to provide a safe place for people to make extra money.
She’s also involved with Nifty Thrifty, 6607 E. Mill Plain Blvd., which was founded in 2018 as a nonprofit organization that relies solely on donations. Givvines said Nifty Thrifty helps to support 22 charities, aiding people affected by Alzheimer’s disease, mental health issues and homelessness. Customers can request for their donation sales to go to a specific charity.
“We founded (Nifty Thrifty) so all the money stays in Clark County for local Clark County charities,” Givvines said.
Givvines helps run both thrift stores. She said Nifty Thrifty and Treasure Trove sales revenues are reaching pre-pandemic levels and are slowly increasing.
Recently, however, both Givvines and Albert have seen a rise in interest from a new demographic.
“In the last two years that I’ve been here, I’ve definitely seen a growing interest within younger shoppers,” Albert noted. She said she believes it’s in part due to Vancouver’s growing population.
Bailey Thomas, a 17-year-old thrifter, said second-hand shopping has not only saved her money; it has stirred an inspiration to one day set up her own thrift shop.
“At first, I would thrift shop for fun. It’s a thrill to find some hidden treasures. But now I’ve given up shopping at big-store brands, I find the same clothes I would usually find there here at a cheaper price, and I help reduce waste,” said Thomas.
She said the social media app TikTok inspired her to shop at thrift stores. “I would ask people where they were getting their clothes, and they would say ‘I thrifted it,’” she said. “I figured it was time for me to check it out.”
Influx of donations
An uncommon scenario has hit ReTails Thrift Store: too many donations. ReTails had to pause donations from Aug. 1-9 in order to process, sort and price the existing inventory.
“This year has just been an unprecedented year with donations. We don’t normally close our donations, but in this case, we had to,” Albert said.
“I think it’s due to a mixture of COVID,” she explained. “Obviously, people were staying home, they were cleaning things out, and plus summer is our busy season.”
Givvines also described having to be more selective with donations in order to control how much comes in. At one point, Nifty Thrifty had to close donations because it was overwhelmed. To help control donations, the store started accepting them through appointments.
“It was never like this before COVID,” Givvines said.