The Gentrification of Thrifting




The gentrification of thrifting is a topic that has been circulating the internet in recent weeks.

Gentrification of thrifting, is the idea that younger clothing resellers are going into thrift stores, aimed at supplying cheap clothing for low-income people, and buying out the nicest pieces in order to resell them at a much higher price. The idea has been debated from two major standpoints, one being that this severely inconveniences low-income people and the other being that with the significant quantities of clothing being produced and then sold in these stores, thrift stores will not run out of clothing. The argument is also largely centred around the United States as this is where most thrift stores are based.


Despite this being a topic that is widely talked about on social media, the arguments are largely one-sided and often paint resellers in a negative light but to what extent is this approach justified?


Looking at the argument from the first standpoint, for many low-income people, thrifting is the only way to obtain clothing. Because of this, some argue that resellers buying out stock will cause prices to increase. Since 2010, ‘Goodwill’ (a thrift store based in the US) has changed its pricing policy and in general, prices have increased. Since minimum wages have not increased to the same degree, many are struggling to afford the same things that would be affordable just 10 years ago.

 


Furthermore, many resellers spend entire days shifting through racks and picking out the best pieces that will sell well. This is a luxury that many low-income people do not have since they are typically working a minimum-wage job with long hours. The argument is then that, by buying out clothing that many people rely on to survive, there will be less clothing to choose from for low-income people.


Adding to this, resellers take these low-priced items and resell them for a much higher price, meaning that the people who need the clothes the most and have to resort to thrifting, can no longer afford to buy the same clothing that was initially accessible to them. This again links in to the previous idea that there will be less choice for the people that actually need these cheaper items.


Looking at these arguments from the other side, scarcity is typically cited as the main reason for both an increase in prices as well as the idea that there will be less choice for low-income people. However, scarcity is not an issue that concerns most thrift stores. Only around 20% of donated clothing actually reaches thrift stores - the rest is either discarded completely or sold to developing countries. Keeping this in mind, increasing prices do not necessarily have to come from resellers taking away stock since there is an excess of clothing that is circulating. This also means that there does not necessarily have to be a lack of choice for low-income people.  


Furthermore, many resellers put in hours of work to sift through all the clothing in thrift stores, curate a small selection and then depending on the person, may even rework the piece to make it more interesting and give it a second life. For many, reselling is a full-time job and the difference in prices between re-sold clothing and thrifted clothing can be thought of as a direct reflection of this.


Instead of focusing on the negatives of reselling, it may actually be wiser to think about the consequences of adding more clothing into this cycle. Considering only a limited portion of donated clothing is sold, is it worth stopping a small portion of the market focused on giving a new life to clothing? 


What are your opinions?

 

References:

https://imperfectidealist.com/is-thrifting-and-reselling-ethical/

https://www.treehugger.com/clothes-you-donate-dont-always-end-peoples-backs-4863686