Corinne Stremmel – Editor-in-Chief
For some, thrifting acts as a relatively inexpensive hobby to add unique pieces to one’s wardrobe or home decor, but for others, thrifting is a way to access basic necessities. As thrifting cycles back through what is deemed as “trendy” and has its own fifteen minutes of fame from influencers on TikTok, students may find themselves needing to become more conscious consumers when visiting a thrift store.
Thrifting’s popularity can be reflected in the prices at large, nationally established stores. Senior Megan Morris has noticed these increased prices throughout her years thrifting.
“At places like Savers and Goodwill [the items] can be so expensive,” said Morris. These high prices, along with questions about Goodwill’s ethics, have made some students look into alternative shopping options.
“I try to stay out of the clothing sections at large thrift stores. I usually go to the St. Peter Thrift Store or Again Thrift Store in Mankato instead,” Morris said.
Other students have also noticed this pattern of gentrification at larger stores. “Mainstream stores like Goodwill are a prime example of becoming truly for-profit and knowing what they should be marking up or not,” President and Founder of the thrifting-focused student organization, ThriftyGold, Emma Goebel said.
While Goodwill claims to be a non-profit organization, some interviewees expressed that they felt that Goodwill did not act like a non-profit organization and had too many controversies to be a truly reliable place to shop.
Goodwill’s prices are determined locally in order to be competitive, so some stores may need to adjust prices to keep up the surge of interest in thrifting, which can cause shoppers who rely on thrifting for everyday goods to be priced out of their local stores.
“A main negative of thrifting at these stores is gentrification of thrift stores and what that means for families who rely on them” Goebel said.
By thrifting locally, shoppers can avoid some of the gentrification that is seen at nationally recognized stores. St. Peter is home to several local thrift stores including St. Peter Thrift Store, a non-profit store whose entire proceeds go to John Ireland School and the Church of St. Peter’s Social Concerns Committee which provides clothing and household items.
“When you thrift, concentrating on the non profits is the best way to go because you know the money you spend there is going to go to good use,” Lisa Cummiskey, manager of the St. Peter Thrift Store said.
“We recently had a woman come in who was in need of baby items, so we were able to provide her with some clothes and a stroller and the types of things you need for a newborn when you come home from the hospital,’’ Cummiskey said.
Local stores often have a charitable mission associated with them while also offering an affordable location for shoppers to buy essentials. “We’re not here to make money, we’re here to serve our community and our parish. The prices at a thrift store are a big factor. Especially this day in age where people might lose their job due to circumstances that are going on in the world right now,” Cummiskey said.
Thrifting’s appeal spans further than just supporting one’s local community. For many shoppers and for members of ThriftyGold, sustainability is a main factor in choosing to purchase second hand.
“ThriftyGold is focused on sustainability within fast fashion, so a big focus is looking at thrifting and second-hand clothing as an option to negate fast fashion while also being conscious of the impact that thrifting has on the community as well,” said Goebel.
This student organization, founded in 2018, takes a closer look at how fast fashion is impacting our world. With the fashion industry being the second largest polluting industry, ThriftyGold tries to look toward resources like thrifting and repurposing clothing to have a second life.
Morris has also explored ways of repurposing clothing she’s found at thrift stores to mimic some of the trendier items sold on fast fashion sites.
“I’m working on a project where I take two T-shirts and put them together because I saw the idea on Shein, and they were selling it for $15. I know how to sew things so I thought that I might as well do it myself,” Morris said. In many ways, repurposing thrifted items has been a way for students like Morris to avoid fast fashion and still buy trendy clothing. “Sometimes I’ll find vintage jackets or dresses that I can fix up and either save or myself or give to someone else. It makes my heart happy knowing that someone has given this item a lot of love and now I get to reuse the clothes for myself,” Morris said.
Similarly, Goebel resonated with the feeling that trends are constantly cycling through.
“I think with social media and especially TikTok, it’s easy to get sucked into wanting clothes from Shein or other companies like that, so we are wanting to address those issues now,” Goebel said.
With the ease of buying online, fast fashion has become a more prevalent shopping option, but at the same time, more sustainable brands have also cropped up over the years. This begs the question for many students, should we buy from sustainable brands if we can afford it and leave thrift stores for those in need? Gobel offers some thought on this question, “If you can afford to purchase items from sustainable companies, please, please do that. We understand that there is a privilege that comes with thrifting and that is in the forefront of our mind when it comes to thrifting. We stress that if it’s not something that you’re definitely going to use or wear that you should not get it,” Goebel said.
Cummiskey offers similar advice about being a more conscious consumer.
“When going thrifting, come in with a list. If you find something along the way, just think about whether or not you’re going to wear it. If it’s not something you’re going to use, then leave it on the rack,” Cummiskey said.
Morris describes the best of both worlds when it come to thrifting by being both sustainable but also intentional with your shopping. “A lot of retro looks are coming back into style, so if you’re shopping for fun, you can buy a new staple for your wardrobe while still giving life to something that would’ve been thrown away otherwise,” Morris says.
As more shoppers turn to thrifting with cost and sustainability in mind, conscious consumption will remain just as important as ever in order to keep thrift stores prices fair and open for all.