Thrift stores: Why thrift shopping is good for your pocket & our planet

The word second hand used to have a bit of an undertone, but here at SwapUp we’re proud to say that we buy and sell second hand items!

Most of our office furniture and equipment and supplies are second hand from thrift stores or marketplaces. It took time to research and buy the right products that we needed, but we strive to keep our vision to minimize the business’ impact. Our experience buying second hand items is one of the reasons why we want to make the process of buying second hand clothes as easy as buying new.

Some people ask if it’s okay to wear second hand clothes, particularly for kids. Personally, we have been wearing second hand clothes most of our lives, either hand-me-downs or buying from others, and guess what? We’ve survived! The only key is to wash your items thoroughly before you wear them, just like you would with new clothes. In fact, new clothes are often treated with stain-removers, color-fasteners, anti-wrinkle agents, softeners and other chemical treatments, so it is even more important to wash before you wear them!



Why buy second hand clothes from thrift stores?

With global fast fashion brands offering clothes at the same price as a cup of coffee, people often wonder why they need to buy second hand. After all, you can get a new dress for almost nothing, so why not buy new?

It’s because the actual price of the clothes they offer are much higher than what’s on the price tag! Fast fashion brands often pay their workers sub-poverty wage, forcing them to work in precarious conditions. All this so they can be “competitive” and sell insanely high volumes of cheap clothing. Zara alone produced over 840 million clothing items in one year. These items often have poor quality, so they tend to have a shorter life and end up in the landfill sooner compared to other better quality products.

This makes fashion disposable. Did you know Australians produce 6,000 kg of fashion waste every 10 minutes? Six tonnes in ten minutes! This likely includes a large portion of women’s clothes because the trends change so fast — kids’ clothes are another contender as they can be quickly outgrown, particularly in the early years of growth. And they all go to the landfill, where most of them will not decompose and remain pollutants to the environment for many years to come.

By shopping second hand from thrift stores, you help increase the clothes’ life (even if they’re from fast fashion), reducing their overall impact and reducing demand for new clothing. With more people buying second hand clothes, we signal to the fashion industry that we want the fast fashion model to change. This is why thrift shopping is good for the environment. So, are thrift stores worth it, you ask? We think so!


How do thrift stores work?

Every thrift store is different, but we've written a long post on the consignment model, which is SwapUp's current business model. 

Traditionally, consignment is a commercial arrangement where a person (the consignor) delivers their items to another person (the consignee) so they can sell items on their behalf.

Consignment allows consignors to sell their items without hassle, as the consignee is responsible for the listing, pricing, photographing, authenticating, packing and shipping of items to buyers. The consignor will receive a percentage of the final selling price, following the consignment policy and payout rate, when the item sells during the consignment period. If the item does not sell, the consignor will not receive any payment — as the consignee also does not receive any payment.


Are thrift store clothes clean?

They are not, but so aren't your new clothes! That “new” smell you’re used to is actually from the chemicals left on the clothes after they're processed. 

We've written a long post about why you should wash clothes from the thrift stores. It's generally not recommended to wear clothes, new or otherwise, without washing.


How to wash thrift store clothes?

Follow the care instructions on your second hand clothes. Here's our guide on reading the seemingly-complicated laundry symbols.


Where can I go thrift shopping and buy second hand clothes online in Australia?

Thankfully as the movement to reuse clothing gains momentum in Australia, it’s easier than ever to find second hand clothes! You can find the nearest op shops or nearest second hand stores using keywords such as op shops near me or thrift stores near me or second hand stores market near me. Some people also call them thrifties or savers. Alternatively, you can stick to your couch and browse second hand clothes from online thrift stores like *ahem* SwapUp. SwapUp is an online thrift store, like an Australian version of thredUP. Our website even allows you to filter by your desired attributes or search using keywords, so you can find things easily. 


Which thrift store is the best?

Well, it depends on your needs. If you're looking for convenience, shopping from online thrift store like SwapUp is a great option. But if you're willing to spend the time and effort to try out many garments and look for that perfect one (we know the thrill), try visit thrift stores and op shops in your local centre. They have limited selection and you can't filter stuff by size or colour the way you can online, but sometimes, that's not a problem!

Also keep in mind that brick-and-mortar thrift stores have different opening hours, whereas online thrift stores are open 24/7. Check Google Maps and/or call to find out which thrift stores are open today.


What happens to second hand clothes when we’re done using them?

After you enjoy the second hand clothes, If you have more time, you could sell your items in the marketplace. You should be prepared to spend significant time listing, negotiating and setting up meeting time or shipping details with buyers. Some vintage stores also have a buyback scheme, so you could bring your old clothes there. 

Alternatively, you can sell second hand clothes via SwapUp digital consignment system hassle-free: we’ll sort, list and take professional photographs of your items. You can just sit back and cash out or donate your earnings at any time. You can also use it up as store credit!

You may also choose to donate or pass them down to family and friends. If you choose to donate the clothes, please try as much to donate used clothes to speciality organisations, such as St Kilda Mums, who would more likely channel these clothes to people in need in your local area (instead of sending them in bulk to other countries). This way, you help reduce the carbon footprint of those clothes.

If the women and kids second hand clothes are no longer in wearable condition, consider recycling them into other uses such as a mop. Stay tuned - in the upcoming journal article we will share a few ideas on how to turn unused clothing articles into coasters, tote bags, and other useful items. Some people call this upcycling. We like that word a lot!


Also read: Clothing Waste Impact in Australia & What You Can Do 

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