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Today's Family Magazine

Thrifty back-to-school shopping tips

Thrift shopping as a back-to-school shopping alternative is becoming more popular as moms and dads (and kids) recognize the social, environmental and personal impact that secondhand shopping can have.

It's estimated that 16–18% of Americans shop at thrift stores in a given year, a statistic that is growing year after year.  In fact, thrift stores are considered the fastest growing segment in retail today.

Gone are the days when thrift shopping was considered a shopping option only for the economically disadvantaged.  Today, there is no typical thrift shopper, just as there is no typical thrift shop.

Save money
Every summer, American parents spend more than $8.5 billion at family clothing stores.

Purchasing back-to-school clothes from thrift stores like Goodwill can save a family a considerable amount of money.  The local Goodwill, which operates 23 area stores in the greater Cleveland and east central Ohio area, estimates that clothing in its stores sell for 50–90% less than a typical retail.  For a single outfit, the savings can be $20–$200 (or more)!

“Why spend $50 on a single pair of jeans, when you can buy two or three entire outfits at Goodwill?,” commented Goodwill’s VP of marketing and development Maureen Ater.  “Goodwill and other thrift stores can offer deep discounts on everything that your children need to head back to school in style.”

Savings begin to stack up August 2–4, which is Ohio’ tax free weekend.  This annual savings holiday is applicable at places like Goodwill for clothing, school supplies and educational resources.

Go green
Thrift stores are the original recyclers.  Donated clothing and housewares find a new life on the shelves of area thrift stores which ultimately reduces waste and pollution.  Every item of clothing bought from thrift stores can mean one less new one product manufactured.

“It's no fad that consumers today are looking for ways to lessen their carbon and water footprint on the environment,” commented Ater. “Recycling textiles and clothing by shopping at thrift stores cuts down on the amount of crude oil required to produce polyester for clothing, and can cut back on the volume of water needed to grow the cotton for new apparel.”

Locally, Goodwill Industries helped divert 12.8 million pounds of waste from area landfills in 2018 alone.

You can buy brand name
Mixed within the racks of thousands of items at area thrift stores are treasures to be found, even high-end brand name clothes and products.  During a recent visit to a Cleveland area Goodwill store, brands like Nike, Justice, Adidas and even Kate Spade were spotted on the racks of the local store.

Online thrift shops offer a curated selection of these higher-end brands for purchase, still at deep discounts. Sites like feature designer purses, shoes and clothing available for auction.  Shoppers can visit to view the local selection of products and opt for local pick up to avoid shipping charges.

It’s not all used
The vast majority of clothing and other products sold in thrift stores is donated, which typically means it has been previously owned.  It’s surprising to many just how much product in these stores is brand new, though.

“Donations reach us with tags still attached,” explained Ater.  “Also, Goodwill has partnerships with large retailers who will donate or sell closeouts to us for resale.  What shoppers may have seen in a big-box retailer a few weeks ago, can show up in our stores for a great price.”

Helps the community
The savings from thrift shopping is substantial, but so is the impact on the local community.
Many thrift stores operate as a revenue generator for nonprofit organizations.  They sell items in stores to fund outreach programs.

“Last year, the sales from donated clothing, furniture and household goods to Goodwill helped support job training programs for people with disabilities or other barriers to employment; it supported emergency vouchers for people in crisis; it even supported survivors of sexual assault,” explained Ater.

Get the kids involved
It’s important to get kids involved in the shopping process, especially at thrift stores.

Discussing the importance of saving money and the environment can have a profound impact on children, even as young as three or four.

If the thrift store helps to support outreach or mission programs, discuss the effect that purchases can have on the community.

Make back-to-school shopping a learning opportunity by giving children a budget and shopping list to follow.

As back to school gears up for families across northeast Ohio, it’s clear that thrift stores should be a first on your shopping adventures. Search online for thrift stores located near you. 

Local Goodwill locations can be found at Happy thrifting!