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Thrift Stores: Vintage Visits Drive New Age in Apparel

by 
Ezra Carmel
 on 
May 2, 2023
Thrift Stores: Vintage Visits Drive New Age in Apparel

Thrift store visits have been on the rise for quite some time, and in recent years “thrifting” for second-hand apparel has become mainstream. The demand for vintage clothing has created a boom not only for this retail category, but also traditional sellers of sought-after brands. We dove into the wider thrift and vintage store sector as well as the off-price and traditional apparel categories to take a closer look at the trends that are driving visits to these retailers. 

An Inflation Destination

In the current hyperinflationary environment, consumers are taking costs into careful consideration when shopping for clothes. And with an abundance of choices in retailers, value orientation is proving to be a key driver of visits. Consumers see thrift stores as a great way to get their hands on “new” styles and name brands at a bargain. 

In 2022, the thrift store category experienced tremendous year-over-year (YoY) visit growth – outperforming traditional apparel and off-price retail categories in every quarter. As inflation persisted in Q1 2023, both thrift stores and off-price chains received a visit boost, with visits to both categories up over 5% for the quarter.  The recent increase in visits to both thrift stores and off-price chains is likely fueled by a continued trade-down by consumers who pivot to discount sellers.

Winning Wardrobes

The strength of both thrift stores and off-price chains is a sign that multiple players in the apparel industry can find ways to drive visits. Analyzing the baseline change in monthly visits since January 2020 reveals that thrift store visits get a seasonal boost in October, July, and August. But in December, when traffic surges at off-price and traditional apparel chains, thrift store visits tend to taper as holiday shoppers may prefer to gift new clothes over vintage items. 

Analysis of visits compared to a January 2020 baseline also revealed that since 2022 thrift stores have sustained several months of larger visit growth than traditional apparel and off-price chains. And this trend continued in Q1 of 2023, indicating that thrift stores’ popularity is mounting. 

Beyond capitalizing on different shopping seasons, the popularity of second-hand shopping can also drive visits to other apparel retail segments. As more consumers engage with second-hand items, traditional apparel brands are becoming part of the resale market for their own brands – a win-win for both sides of the industry. 

Second-Hand, Fresh Foot Traffic 

Thrift stores are uniquely positioned for success in part because they stay in tune with the preferences of consumers. A strong brick-and-mortar presence allows in-store staff to curate a collection that appeals to local buyers in search of specific vintage fashion trends. And in-person thrifters also appreciate the convenience and sustainability elements of visiting physical stores. Mainly, getting cash for their unwanted items on the spot while simultaneously refreshing their wardrobes with “new” pieces. 

Analysis of some of the most popular thrift and vintage chains revealed the consistent visit growth that took place across the space since the start of 2022. And even though in Q1 2023 the YoY visit growth of these chains was not as large as in Q1 2022, they all maintained positive or near-positive results. 

Style Summary

As inflation continues to impact consumer spending, thrifting remains a cost-efficient way to bring home vintage fashion. Even traditional apparel retailers can benefit from the growing demand for second-hand merchandise – a sign that there is room for both full-price and discount sellers. 

The nature of thrifting lends itself to the physical world. With convenience, sustainability, and “treasure-hunting” motivating thrifters, the brick-and-mortar format continues to drive traffic to local vintage stores. 

For updates and more data-driven foot traffic insights, visit Placer.ai.

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