Thrift stores . . . as a leading economic indicator?

I have a confession to make – my name is Kay, and I’m a thrift-store junkie.
My obsession with thrift shopping began about 16 years ago, when as a young married, expecting our first child, I knew that we had to cut some expenses if I were going to be able to be at home with my kiddos as I wanted to be.  I’d been shopping upscale consignment stores in my area for years – most of my working maternity wardrobe came from consignment.

Two years later, when we decided that it was time for me to be home with our toddler and new infant, thrift stores became the rule rather than the exception – and I’ve never looked back.

In fact, in the early years, I was quite good at picking up quality items of all sorts at thrift stores, and turning those items into a nice little profit on eBay.  As time went on, and more people discovered the untapped treasures in thrifting, along with discovering eBay, my thrifting became more personal in nature – the bulk of our clothing and accessories has come through shopping at thrift stores.  Far from feeling deprived, I get quite a thrill when I find designer treasures for pennies on the dollar, and my family is able to dress far better than our income would allow were we mall shoppers.

So it is very interesting to me to note that over the past several months I’ve seen quite a trend.  As a work-at-home mom, my schedule permits me to hit thrift stores during the work week – and during normal working hours.  Many times over the last few years when I’d find myself shopping in the thrifts, I might be the only shopper in the store – and rarely would I see more than five or six other shoppers.

I suppose, knowing where our economy seems to be headed, and considering the unemployment rate, then, it should come as no surprise that peaceful shopping during the weekdays is coming to an end.  I’ve noticed over the last several months that each time I find myself in a thrift store, no matter where, no matter when (and it is usually during a week day) that the stores are becoming quite crowded.  My daughters (now 13 and 15) experienced it with me for the first time last week as it had been quite a while since they’d been “thrifting” with mom.  They were stunned, along with me, to see lines 10 people deep at the cash register of one of our favorite thrifts – and it wasn’t due to any special event; it just truly appears that more people are finding their way to the thrifts.  What can I say – on this one, we were ahead of the curve – we were thrifting when thrifting wasn’t cool!

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