Sunday, July 3, 2022
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Thrift Store Gentrification



In the last few years, thrifting has increased in popularity and with it, the practice of reselling clothing has grown. Yet, questions are being raised as to the ethics of reselling clothing bought at thrift stores. 

Many are worried that this act leads to the gentrification of thrift stores, a space meant to serve the lower class in attaining clothing at an affordable rate. The topic is controversial, with many polarizing opinions taking center stage.

The term gentrification is largely applied to neighborhoods and areas where people live and work. Gentrification occurs when an area typically inhabited by the lower class transforms into a wealthier area through the process of improving housing and attracting businesses. Oftentimes, this leads to the displacement of the original inhabitants due to higher living expenses. 

Many wonder what this has to do with thrifting. One of the main arguments in the thrift store gentrification controversy is that the popularity of thrifting and reselling has caused an increase in the prices at thrift stores—so much so that the prices are too high for people in need to afford. 

Comparison of product valuation between 2010 and 2020 at Goodwill. | Credit: Goodwill

While it may be true that increased thrifting could be part of the reason for higher prices at thrift stores, there is no evidence to corroborate this claim. In fact, a New York and New Jersey branch of Goodwill explained that they have heightened their pricing to support both their employees and their mission to provide opportunities and support initiatives for underserved communities. 

Logo for “Depop,” a reselling app. | Credit: Depop

The increase in thrift store pricing isn’t the only issue being scrutinized in the gentrification argument. People are questioning the ethics of resellers buying heaps of trendy clothing at low costs and reselling the pieces at marked-up prices on apps like Depop and Poshmark. Many believe that this not only leads to increased prices, but also limits the amount of chic and trendy clothing available to those who need to buy from thrift stores. 

Unwanted clothing and textiles. | Credit to original owner.

There is a counterargument to the idea that resellers take all the trendy pieces, which states that donation centers run on a surplus that prevents them from truly selling out all of the trendy fashion pieces. Donations are being received at such a large scale that, in some cases, thrift stores send large quantities of unsold clothing to landfills. 

In the eyes of resellers, they are making sure that less clothing ends up in those landfills. This argument also lends itself to the idea that thrift stores will never truly run out of chic pieces and that “trendy” is subjective, as not everyone prefers the same clothing.  

It seems the thrift store gentrification debate is not as black and white as people on either side of the argument would like to believe. Resellers are not the only reason for rising product pricing, nor are they taking all the clothing from thrift stores. That being said, there are still more ethical ways to resell second hand-fashion and create an equitable experience for everyone involved.

Furthermore, there should be more focus placed upon the ethics of thrift stores like Goodwill and Value Village themselves. It is not sustainable to throw donations into landfills when there are people in need of clothing, especially considering these companies receive the donations for free. 

Popularity in thrifting and reselling is not likely to disappear any time soon, and the best course of action is for everyone using thrift stores to work together to find a fair solution.