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Secondhand News: Kids' Thrift Shops

Bracha Arnold
December 14, 2023
Secondhand News: Kids' Thrift Shops

Thrift and secondhand shopping have been growing in popularity, driven partly by young, environmentally conscious consumers seeking the hottest Y2K styles. But the retail segment is not limited to young fashionistas – parents, too, are embracing thrift shopping to keep up with their kids’ growth spurts. 

And thrifty parents can find plenty of places to pick up clothing for the whole family without breaking the bank. We looked at two secondhand children's clothing stores – Kid to Kid and Once Upon A Child – to see how they are faring, what might be driving visits, and who tends to visit their stores.

More Thrifting, Please

Kid To Kid and Once Upon A Child were both founded by parents looking for ways to cut down on the costs of keeping their growing children clothed. The two chains operate on a franchise model and boast hundreds of stores nationwide. Like many chains in the thrift store segment, visits to both are growing, with year-over-year (YoY) monthly visits between July and November 2023 displayed year-over-year (YoY) up – and outpacing increases in the wider thrift store category – for most months analyzed. And October’s visit dip is likely more reflective of consumer sentiment than any real decline in thrift shopping interest – by November, foot traffic to the chain was up again. 

The sustained visit strength to child-oriented thrift stores serve as a reminder that even in challenging economic conditions, there are plenty of retail bright spots.

Poppin' Tags At The Thrift Shop

Kid to Kid and Once Upon a Child both have locations across the country, and diving into the demographic data of the chains’ visitor base in four states – Texas, Virginia, Georgia, and Pennsylvania – reveals some similarities and differences between the two brands’ audiences. Examining the captured market trade area data for the chains revealed that, overall, visitors to Once Upon A Child came from areas with a median household income (HHI) below the state average. Meanwhile, Kid To Kid’s trade area followed the opposite pattern. (A chains’ captured market refers to the trade area with each census block weighted according to its share of visits to the chain or venue in question.) 

For example, visitors to Once Upon A Child in Texas tended to come from trade areas where the median HHI stood at $61.4K/year, while the state’s median HHI was $67.9K. Kid To Kid Texas shoppers, meanwhile, came from trade areas where the median HHI was $69.3K/year. 

The difference in HHI between the two chains’ trade areas highlights that second hand stores are successfully reaching shoppers across many income levels – and may explain some of the differences in cross-shopping patterns, as outlined below.

Visitor Journey: Secondhand Strength 

Analyzing cross-shopping patterns of Kid to Kid and Once Upon A Child visitors – chains that visitors to the chains also frequented – reveals a strong preference for thrift and off-price retailers. 

In the off-price category, Kohl's and T.J. Maxx were particularly popular, with 43.1% of Kid to Kid and 41.0% of Once Upon a Child shoppers also visiting Kohl's between December 2022 and November 2023. Also popular was Ross Dress For Less, with 41.6% and 34.6% of visitors to Kid To Kid and Once Upon A Child visiting the chain over the past twelve months. 

In terms of thrift stores, around a third of visitors to Kid to Kid and Once Upon a Child’s also visited Goodwill, although the thrift store giant is slightly more popular among Once Upon a Child shoppers (37.7% cross-shopping compared to 34.0% cross-shopping for Kid to Kid). A larger share of Once Upon a Child shoppers also visited Plato’s Closet – another leading second-hand apparel chain – when compared to Kid to Kid visitors (15.6% compared to 9.4%).  

In general, it seems that off-price retailers were slightly more popular with Kid to Kid, while more Once Upon a Child shoppers also visited thrift store chains – perhaps due to the income differences among the two brands’ audiences. 

Thrifty Business

Thrifting remains a cost-efficient way to bring home new threads without breaking the bank – a bonus to any parent wondering why their children outgrew their clothes overnight. And retailers can continue to build on this interest by expanding into new markets and reaching out to new audiences. 

For more data-driven retail insights, visit

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