Monday, March 2, 2009

How I Shop Goodwill*

*Many bloggers have discussed their thrift store shopping methods. This post is meant to share the ones that work specifically for me, in the hopes they might also help you. :)

When it comes to shopping, I'm thrilled by the digging. I realize this method of shopping is not for everyone, but if you're like me you experience a giddy, smug satisfaction from plucking some fabulous items from the racks of a TJMaxx, Marshall's or Ross at a deep discount from department store prices.

Increasingly, one of my favorite places to hunt is
Goodwill, and its popularity seems to be growing for a number of reasons. The obvious motivator is the murky economy. Like so many millions of Americans, I recently joined the ranks of the unemployed. And just like everyone else, I want to stretch my dollar as far as possible every time and everywhere I shop. Shopping secondhand is a great way to achieve that goal.
Another reason for increased business for GW is given in this Chicago Tribune article, which explores the emerging attitude of "conservative chic" -- embracing thriftiness while shunning the blinged-out showiness that was so popular just a few years ago. Regarding the psyche of the American consumer, it is evident people haven't stopped shopping, they're just shopping differently, per this interview with retail expert Paco Underhill:

Another key thing we are finding is that there are people in the parking lot of Trader Joe's and ALDI, and Goodwill and the dollar stores, that were never there three years ago. The demographic profile of people willing to shop down is expanding. (full article)

Goodwill marketers are successfully repositioning their stores in the minds of consumers to compete on a commercial level as a "discount retailer," akin to Wal-mart and Target. And speaking of my beloved red-themed store, my December visit to the Brodie Lane GW in Austin, TX, was full of Target clothes and shoes fresh off the clearance racks and obviously never worn! Lots of goods from Khol's too. The look and layout of the store was different from the traditional GW, with a silent auction of superior goods (purses, furniture, art) at the front, a specialty section of higher-end clothing brands, a well-developed jewelry section, and a rather sophisticated and modern glass facade. I should have taken a pic. T'was quite fancy! I look forward to seeing something that nice in Raleigh-Durham.

Here are my personal ideas about how to get the most out of a visit to Goodwill, especially if you're not used to thrift-store shopping. What works for me:

1) Be open-minded and prepared to spend some time combing the racks. If you go in looking for something very specific, such as a size 12, silk fuschia knee-length skirt, you might leave disappointed. Keep in mind that things can be altered to fit. Also, sometimes tags aren't true to size, especially when it comes to vintage items.
(I recently bought a "size 10" dress online, and I'm *ahem* definitely bigger than a 10 by today's standards.) It's all part of the fun of the hunt!

2) Take advantage of the increase of brand name and store-specific clothes. Obviously leftover clearance items from Belk have to go somewhere. I'm noticing a huge increase in obviously new items with tags still attached en masse from various stores. I imagine there's a tax write-off for the donation made by those major retailers, and from a financial perspective the gift doubles as a method of eliminating an inventory expense. At the store on New Hope Church Rd in Raleigh, I saw this Merona skirt -- which was on the racks at Target as recently as November for $20 -- for only $4 with tags intact. I also saw lots of Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, Old Navy and J. Crew blouses, and all kinds of Old Navy. Ask your local GW store when they receive drop-offs from major stores.

3) Go in the late afternoon, perhaps around 4 pm.
New stock at my local store seems to come out continuously, and it seems the afternoon is the best time to see the fresh stuff. It has also been my best time to avoid lengthy lines.

4) Bring a pair of socks to wear in the dressing room.
The floors can
be kind of dirty, but I think this is true of most dressing rooms in general.

5) Pay close attention to details on the garments.
I find
that most items have been screened fairly well for stains, rips, tears, etc, but be on the lookout just in case. $4 isn't a deal if you take it home and can't wear the garment; it just means you blew $4 bucks! Check for any flaws under the arms, at collars, and along seams.

For more advanced tips, transferable trends, and great GW advice, please peruse the fabulous blog of the
DC Goodwill Fashionista, which is relevant even outside The Beltway.

Do you have a favorite Goodwill location in the RDU area or a great find to share from a Goodwill experience?

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