Are Thrift Store Prices Becoming Too Expensive?

Posted On Tuesday, June 12th, 2012
Filed Under: shopping, Thrift Stores

Maybe it’s a product of living in NYC, or maybe this is something others are noticing in their cities, but it seems {some} thrift stores are becoming a bit more expensive, no?
The price tag above was for a dress at Goodwill. It was a pretty basic label and nothing fancy, so I was baffled at the $20 price tag. Really, $20 for a secondhand dress? For that price, you can get a frock from Forever 21 or the clearance rack at some stores.
Of course most secondhand garments don’t fall in to this category, but I have noticed the occasional steep price tag. I typically chalk it up to the price you pay for thrifting in NYC but I’ve also seen some double take-worthy prices in other cities.
I totally understand paying a bit more for a high end piece, but I’ve also seen some Target and Payless items priced at just a few bucks less than the original value. For me, that kind of defeats the point of thrifting.
On the flip side, I’ve also seen some designer items priced super cheap.
These Casadei pony hair leopard pumps were just $10, while a pair of Nine West shoes were $15. Um, the Casadei pumps originally retailed for a little more than 400 bucks! In a situation like this, I understand it a bit more. The longer an item is on the sales floor, the more it’s marked down so maybe the Nine West shoes {though worth less} were just put out on the sales floor so the price hadn’t come down just yet.
Either way, at times my mind is boggled with the pricing I’ve come across.
Have you noticed anything similar in your area? Are some thrift stores too expensive? What’s the maximum you’re willing to spend on an item at the thrift store? 
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68 thoughts on “Are Thrift Store Prices Becoming Too Expensive?

  1. YES! I agree 100%. My feeling is that since the thrift store craze has caught on and people are on the hunt for great deals, thrift stores are using that logic to increase their prices. There is a Goodwill near me that has increased their prices on some pretty basic things…not to mention the way the y price the handbags is way off… especially when they are not authentic! I think you just have to know your prices and hit it right!

    • Hi…I’m new to this site and notice the dates are back a couple years, but though I’d chime in. I’m in Massachusetts and normally the Salvation Army thrift shops are very well priced, but there is a new Major in the city of Worcester who has decided to up the prices WAY too high……what we used to pay $4.00 for, is not about $10.00 or alot more. I’m not going to pay that, so until (IF)things change, I will head for the Sal. shop in nearby Rhode Island where hopefully the prices have not been greedily raised. It’s supposed to be an outfit that helps the poor and the lower income folks….but many other folks shop there too. They need the income of everyone, and I know that many low income folks just cannot afford the new high prices. And, the rest of us will NOT pay those high prices…so, it’s either off to a regular retail store or to a different thrift shop. Personally, I hate the consignment shops as they have too high prices there also…but they don’t seem to change on that one bit. So, my fellow thrifters, you are not alone in your disgust at the greediness of Sal. Army now…I know that they are losing customers in the nearby stores in this area, as the staff mentioned it to me. Sad to see that but people are standing their ground…some are even calling the Major’s office to complain. My concern is where is the money going?? Is it really going to help the people who need the services of the Sal. Army OR is it lining the pockets of the head staff there? Tis a mystery indeed.

  2. I notice it too! And just as you’re saying: for me it defeats the point of thrifting! I love being the frugal fashionista, but when thrift prices become almost equal to retail prices, then I’m starting to feel less like a smart shopper. It really annoys me actually.
    What I’m willing to pay for a thrift item really depends on what is is, and in which state it is. But I can’t imagine paying more than 30 euros on something unless it is a Lanvin dress.

  3. Yes! I thrift a LOT and sometimes I just want to quit because I get so disgusted at the prices. I often see items with the price tag still on them and the thrift price is about 20% less. What?! Because of this I have stopped donating to the Goodwill and now donate to American Council of the Blind. I feel Goodwill is the worst about the situation. 

    • I agree. They even have their own ebay type website starting a ridiculous prices! I think they have been purchased from a private company for big profit returns.

  4. I like this post! I think it’s starting to become ridiculous. Now that thrift stores know people are thrifting it’s becoming more expensive. As a college student that’s all you do is thrift. I used to thrift a lot in high school when it was unheard of, but now everyone does it. I’ve noticed prices have gone up. That’s why I only go on discount days because it seems like I can find a better deal at Marshall’s or Nordstrom Rack.

    Jasmine Ay

  5. They are all starting to become incredibly greedy! I have a lot more fun just going to yard sales now. I used to LOVE going to Savers ever day, every other day, but now what used to be a $20 bag of cloths is now like $60, seriously?!  And we are talking about things like old navy, kholes, gap, ann taylor, sears brands, walmart, and target items all going for $5+, these are typically one season items to boot they are go poorly made.

  6. In Chicago, prices can also get ridiculous. Goodwill is by far the worse. Primarily because, unlike Salvation Army, Unique, or Village (whose prices are still reasonable, if not sometimes a bit out there on the occasional piece) Goodwill never has any sales. They offer a loyalty card that only offers a max of 25% off one day a month.  My rule is that unless it’s a super great designer or something I really want, I don’t pay over $10 for it. Especially because a lot of rummage sales in more affluent neighborhoods you can find those same items for less than $5.

  7. Wow!  I am so glad you posted this because I have started noticing this as well.  I have seen some thrift stores charge as much as around $15 for a blouse that was not even a designer label.  I was shocked!  I think the most I would be willing to spend is $10 and it would have to be from a designer and/or a truly unique item.

  8. My limit is $10 for anything but furniture at a thrift store. Some of them are becoming too expensive. If I can get a name brand item at Ross or TJMaxx for the same price as the thrift store then it’s pointless for me to buy it secondhand. I have fallen in love with thrifting thanks to you Patrice. BUT some stores have disappointed me with their over pricing. 

  9. I totally agree. My sister and I are avid thrifters. We discuss this all the time. Prices are going through the roof. I usually only go on the discount days or when I have a coupon. I do prefer the less popular stores. Better prices and options. In the Atlanta area SA has 1/2 off day on Wednesdays. Goodwill might as well be Macy’s. I like Value Village and Park Thrift Avenue. Love your site!

  10. I agree with everyone. As an avid thrifter, I blame the economy for pushing all the prices up including thrift stores. The fact that thrifting has become “cool” doesn’t help the price hike. I don’t have a price limit but I do always google items before purchasing to make sure I get a good deal. I LOVE LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!!

  11. Your not the only one who has seen the shift in prices. While I am happy to see a lot more thrift stores pop up in my area, they are trying to pass themselves off as a second hand “boutique”. As you said, if they were trying to sell me a well know designer, then by all means, but they are trying to sell me a used Ralph Lauren sweater that I could by brand new at discount stores like T.J. Maxx for the same price. I go to the thrift store because I want to spend no more than $10 dollars on one item, not typically for the label, and then if i get the label as well then its an added bonus.

  12. I like this post too!  I’m amazed at how many thrift stores have popped up in the Northern NJ area. Thrift/Consignment/Second Hand…prices vary based on location, customer, etc.

    But, yes, I’ve noticed that thrift stores are not as inexpensive as they used to be, but I limit my shopping now to the additional discount days.  For instance, Valule Village has Mondays and Thursdays with an additional 25% off; or I wait for the email with the sale day. It’s crazy to shop when it’s 50% off but the deals are really good.

    I have to say I was shocked to get a key card for Goodwill however. THEY now have a Customer Rewards Program!  Can’t believe it!  Probably a good idea, but is it really necessary. Why not just lower prices?  Have to spend $100 to get a $10 discount on one transaction.

  13. A lot of my favorite stores have been taken over by “new management” recently i went into one of my fav thrift stores and they were selling sequin/beaded dresses for OVER $100!!! I asked one of the workers about it and she told me that they were under new management…i’ve been hearing that a lot lately. The store was slightly more organized but I could do without the price hikes!

  14. I think that prices have gone up as thrifting has gotten more popular. My local Goodwill recently opened a store in a tony part of town that only sells high end clothes (at higher prices, of course.) They say that it doesn’t affect what the other stores get,but I find that hard to believe since the older stores would have gotten that stuff before. 

    Ultimately, each shopper has to decide what price she’s willing to pay for an item. I also think that thrifting is a fad for a lot of people, and as the economy improves, demand will decrease, so prices will decrease.

    • Our Goodwill is now having the 99 cent store so they are having left overs or should I say picked overs. I guess the rule is if you really dont need it dont buy.  This goes for full price or thrift.  The principle of supply and demand.   Overspending is what got us in this difficulty.

  15. I live in Houston and I began to notice a price jump a couple of years ago. Some of my favorite thrifts seemed to think they were Neiman-Marcus.  But I also notice some ‘sleepers’.  For example, in  some of the thrift shops, the pricers don’t really know name brands and will price a Kmart garment more than a designer one. Of course, I go to those shops more often. I also like the shops with a one price policy-all short sleeve lady tops are one price, long sleeve, usually a dollar more, etc. I find treasure in those shops.

    I don’t put a limit to any single garment, but thanks to you ,Missy, I did put myself on a monthly budget.  I am grateful for your example and my close is not bugling with ‘bargains’ that I never wear.

  16. i have to agree im a newcomer so to speak in that every time i read about thrifting i try to go and ALL the stores i go to have prices that are comparable to forever 21, old navy sales or if i went downtown LA to the alley(a flea market type thing i live in los angeles) …this is why i have always given up on thrifting because i feel if im going to buy second hand clothes for the same price as new then what is the point. i have always just chalked this up to my lack of experience in thrifting but perhaps i was on to something after all

  17. I have burst out laughing at some of the prices lately- $12 for a well-worn H&M shirt that was probably down to $5 in the H&M store. I have quit thrifting as often because I can do better with the sales racks (and no nasty smells!), but I think it would be really helpful if we sent this sort feedback to the thrifts. They seem to be hellbent on killing the golden goose and it’s a shame- they had a good thing going there, just got greedy!. 

  18. They are getting more expensive thanks to people like yourself that with alll the publicity that you are giving them they have become the latest trend. 😉

  19. Sadly, I have noticed the same thing in my suburb of San Francisco. It has gotten so out of hand with the pricing that I have stopped going regularly to the Goodwill locally. They had a pair of Hunter clogs priced $100, there was once a pair of Charlotte Russe shoes they had priced at $34.99 and that sat on the stands for weeks, all of their dresses are 9.99 or 10.99, no matter the label or condition, same with the jeans, and there are items that they do not price so you get a random, usually inflated price for the DONATED item at the register. The worst moment was when I found a Kate Spade shopping bag priced $1.99. A paper bag that you get when you purchase an item, not an actual Kate Spade bag, just the paper bag that you use to carry your stuff home in?!?!?! 

    The other thing that they started doing was changing the pricing when you got to the register and it was always in their favor. Mind you, these were not tags that someone could have pulled from one item and put on the piece I wanted. They were actual punched through the fabric tags. I finally looked up the CA law that says it is illegal to do this and carried it with me in my wallet for my own defense. Overall, I just find it truly sad and completely in contradiction to what Goodwill is supposed to represent.

  20. because i’ve been out of the thrifting loop for too many years to count, i can’t offer insight in that regard. however, i will say this – as a result of reading your blog i did wander into Salvation Army and a locally owned thrift store a few weeks ago. the locally owned store was super small. i got a Jones New York jacket that looked brand new for 2.99, a pussybow blouse and tribal print purse all for that same low price – plus an additional 10% off because i made a donation that day.

    at Salvation Army, i found a denim top and basic blue shorts that were $4.29 each. the only reason i bought them was because it was half off white tags that day. my initial thought was the original sticker price was a bit much considering the garments weren’t like new at all and didn’t carry a brand label – not even Target or WalMart. 

    going forward, i’ll be visiting Salvation Army on Wednesday when everything is half off that day. i was warned of the crowds, but i think it’s well worth it to ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. thanks for starting the discussion on this topic.

  21. I had a similiar experience the other day in Goodwill, a pair of Aerosole wedges were priced at $19.99 and a pair of BCBG pumps were only $4! I try to spend more than $5 for a thrifted item unless it is an absolute must have. When I’m shopping retail I keep it at a $10-$20 limit depending on the brand. I walked away from a pair of BCBG sandals because they were still $30 with a coupon for additional off!

  22. This is so true, my wife and I live in Williamsburg Brooklyn and we have visited a few thrifts in the area and our mouths drop at some of the prices we have come across.  Perhaps since the trend of second hand fashion is rising, owners feel like marking up prices. 



  23. I have seen a change in thrift stores over the past say 10 years or so, where I generally won’t pay what they are asking. I do not think this is your fault, of course. I think there has been a general drop in monetary donations to these organizations. I don’t know if people realize these stores are used to generate revenue for entire social programs like drug rehab and helping the indigent learn job skills and get high school GEDs and such. These programs cost a lot, so the stores have to try to make up the difference in lost monetary gifts. In Jefferson City, Missouri, there is a place where prisoners learn to reupholster furniture which is funded by similar stores. Not certain which organization it is.

    I think the basic concept of supply and demand is important when it comes to thrift stores. If you think a price is too high, just don’t buy.  Your purchase is your vote. It’s pretty simple. 🙂

  24. Yes!  Thrift stores are in high demand due to the economy so days of the “thrift store prices” are gone.  I do also want to point out that to me, Goodwill is not a thrift store.  More than half of their merchandise is brand new!!!  I prefer to shop at the actual second hand thrift shops…

  25. Yes yes yes. Thrift store prices-especially at the Goodwill and Salvation Armiy locations are doubling, sometimes tripling. I’ve noticed this trend within the past couple years, due to thrift stores’ popularity. It’s really annoying, especially nice this stuff gets donated and these stores didn’t pay for the merchandise or share the profits with the sellers like in consignment operations. Thanks for pointing that out.

  26. Girl yes! I live in Los Angeles and went to Goodwill in Downtown LA and found a London fog trench coat priced at $19.99. Yeah and No! I was in great condition and thought I could add studs to make it look like the Burberry trench but then talked myself out it. Lately, I see something I want, I shop my closet first.  Of course I have a trench coat already in my closet.  Sometimes  I have to remind them the item is used and the price is ridiculous.  The max I will spend at the goodwill is $20. 

  27. To be honest I think the most expensive thrift Store is Goodwill. Sometime I just want to scream out really loud while shopping ” What the heck Goodwill Your not a retail store for crying out loud… Everything in this store was given free how dare you charge retail prices!!! Lol” But I’m to much of a lady to do that lol

  28. It’s the same in Australia, the prices in second hand stores have really gone crazy. I can get good quality stuff at similar prices in factory outlets.

  29. I live NYC and have noticed  some of these prices at thrift stores are right up there with the mainstream shops. I’m like is this a thrift store or J-Crew lol

  30. OMG…THANK TOU FOR MENTIONING WHAT I FIND IS AN EVIL PHENOMENAL!! I live in Chicago and been thrifting ever since i left home. I live inan area of chicago where i am fortunate enough to have thrift stores in four directions of my home  – there’s Unique on Sheridan, Salvation Army 2 blocks south, Discount Village on Clark and a host of others. I think I’ve made complaints and had to negotiate more ofteb then not on the prices of their clothing. They know people are thrifting more and nore in this economy and they are taking advantage of this. I only go during half off days and special holiday specials now and will not accept just any price if i know how it’s to be priced.  

  31. I haven’t seen this shift in prices, but I will say that upon my first visit to a Goodwill, I thought the prices were a bit high (compared to “regular” thrift stores). 

  32. Well, I’m glad to know that I am not the only one who thinks thrift store prices are too high.   I live in Southern California L.A. area, and, I agree with others, that Goodwill is the worst one.  I remember when jeans/levis were $4.99 and now they are up to $7.99 a pair.  I speculate that there are two possible reasons for this: thrift stores have discovered that customers are reselling some the items at higher prices; and maybe they are not receiving the amount of donations they used to.  With the bad economy, folks are keeping their clothes much longer.  People can no longer afford to replace and buy clothes like they used to, so donations are down.  It’s all about “supply and demand”: less inventory = higher prices.  Just thinking, maybe …

  33. hmmm pretty interesting.  I have become a dedicated thrifter in the past few months so Im still learning.  I live in PA  and have not yet noticed any major changes on prices (as of yet).    Good info.

  34. Goodwill is horrible for overpricing.  That’s because no one really can prove they are truly a charity anymore.  I stopped going there because of the horrible prices.  Smaller stores with better causes and smaller prices is what I do. Always during sale day, or the color of the week.  I’m not a desperate thrifter, I have Faith that what I want is there waiting for me, ya know?

    I love your site Sweetness!

  35. Pingback: Are Thrift Stores Becoming Too Expensive: Part Two | Looking Fly on a Dime

  36. I’m sure the presence of us blogging has caught their eye, and they figure they can get more for the nicer things, and I hate it. I go thrifting to get a 3 dollar top, mind you in most cases i have to mend it, change buttons, maybe add a button, so jacking it up to 10 bucks is crazy, I walked into one thrift shop and they had scarves for like 10 bucks, these were normal scarves and i was so shocked they have never pairs of shoes for less than a small scarf. 

  37. The reason thrift store prices have gone up is because a few years back during the Bush administration (not sure if you remember) they passed some very strict IRS laws which got rid of loopholes and tightened some ways people could itemize donations. Before,people and companies could donate a sofa or t.v. and itemize it for like 100 or more. Well with the new rules in place, the IRS made a list of things which is considered donatable and each item on that list has its set value price..(valued by the IRS themselves). So this law for the past few years really hurt the thrift business cause they couldn’t itemize for charity well enough and the donations actually started receiving less and less charity. (some people or companies actually donated for that purpose..the itemizing) then of course the economy hit hard which also impacted donations and now what your seeing is a thrift stores doing there best to survive.

  38. I just found your site, so this is about 5 months late. I shop at Goodwill often. Their prices are ridiculous! Today, I bought brand new shirts at American Eagle for cheaper than they were in Goodwill. I’ve heard Goodwill is no longer non profit. I’m not 100% sure if that’s true, but it may have something to do with their prices.

  39. Wow, I’ve never seen prices like this at any thrift store! I routinely shop at five or six different Goodwill stores in Northeast Ohio and almost every clothing item is $3.99. There are a few things, like coats or dresses, that are closer to $6, and some things are cheaper, like tank tops for $2. One store also has a sale every day where one tag color is $1. I went there the other day and ended up finding six tops with yellow tags, which happened to be the promo color, so I got them all for $6. I just kind of assumed that all Goodwill stores were like this!


    I’m opening a new thrift store in a small Midwest town close to where I live. My prices will be higher than the other two store that are there, but there IS a reason many people don’t stop and consider when they look at mom/pop thrift stores like mine:
    Even though that item was given to me free of cost, doesn’t mean I don’t have cost IN that item. I have the tag, tag holder, floor space, employee cost, lights, insurance, equipment & upkeep, security, rent, fees, and taxes just to name a few. Then my store adds in: washing, drying, and laundry detergent cost.
    I have it figured out each clothing item, though given to me for free, actually costs me on average $1.12.

    Furniture is taken home, fixed, sometimes repainted, re-purposed, and put back on the floor. A ‘free’ item may have anywhere from $3 to $30 in care from me to make it the quality of items I’m demanding my store provide. So that means, I’m not going to sell you an item for $10 that took me $15 to make floor worthy.

    Now, if I ran my store like Wal-Mart, I’d take that $1.12 item, multiply it by roughly 1,000% and tell you it’s cheap for $12.99, or the $15 item for $149.99. But, I can’t do that. What I CAN do is set my prices and then tell you why they are a little higher then the smelly thrift store to the south, and why I don’t give huge discounts like the crusty floor thrift cove to the east…. I check each item at least 3 times: First, coming out of the donation container. Second, coming out of the dryer. Third, in the pricing room. Sometimes fourth and fifth during stocking.

    Yes, I received that item for free – but it doesn’t mean I don’t have cost in it by the time it hits the floor, then the customer’s hand.

    Yes, I received that item for free – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t cost.

    • I understand there’s cost, but a lot of thrift stores in my area have mostly volunteer workers, and it doesn’t explain why a 20-year old boombox is priced at $50, or a 10-year old casio keyboard is $60.

    • When I go to a thrift store, I’m not looking for upcycled items. If it’s repainted in someone else’s color choice and marked higher, I don’t consider that a thrift item, but a resale shop item. Most people who thrift want to purchase something inexpensively and redesign to there own taste so they can save money and get something that’s unique at the same time.

  41. Pingback: 3 Reasons You Should Thrift Shop in a Small Town | Looking Fly on a Dime

  42. When I was 9, back in 2001, I would go with my grandmother and pick out toys and board games and old computers, and they would each be no more than $20. Nowadays, it’s ridiculous – I went to a thrift store and found a drill that was obviously fairly old, and it had a $20 price tag on it. I brought it up, and they said that it didn’t come with the charger, which was $20 as well! I went next door to Menard’s and found a brand new $30 one that’s lasted me quite a while now. Absolutely ludicrous.

  43. This is true! Its ridiculous! simple brands are priced super expensive. also imitation fake brands are being priced off the wall expensive. I’m pretty sure they know that its fake, people pricing these items are very aware of the worth, but they are hoping some dumb person will pay. You’re better off going to Marshalls and TJmaxx, even Target has better prices. I know that the money goes to the needy, but even the needy or low income families need to buy clothing. Many thrift stores have been bought out by private companies and are being run like a corporation.They get free merchandise from people donating, and I wonder if they are really donating back to their community. I remember the days of .50 cent shirts. Now your are lucky if you can find a shirt under $5.00!

  44. Yes…the prices are getting higher and close to regular retail. I’m in Georgia and it’s happening here as well. Goodwill and the other stores are comparing their prices to online stores like Amazon and Ebay to justify their price hikes.

  45. Pingback: Looking Fly on a Dime Thrift Shopping Story | Looking Fly on a Dime

  46. Well just wanted to post this I have been shopping at thrift stores like Salvation army, Goodwill, Savers, and Restore/Habitat for Humanity and i have to say its rediculus who much they are charging it use to be fun now its like they are taking advantage of things charging higher than if you bought it brand new from the stores Goodwill is only good when they have the half off thing going on and even then its high for donated goods and Restore Habitat for humanity is suppose to be cheap and the one in Stratford Ct is charging furniture like its in a furniture store redic prices i was so upset i was going to purchase a folding chair for 5.00 i thought that was not bad for something donated it had the sticker on it then when i get to the register the asst manager tells me some put a different sticker it was really 10.00 i said 10.00 for a folding chair that was donated are you kidding me so i told her to call the manager it was not my fault someone did that and the manager even said that he could not give it to me for the 5.00 are you kidding i was so upset couldn’t believe these people they are becoming more rip offs than the regular stores at least there if the price say 5.00 even if its missed marked you still get it for that price. I gotta say the only two that are pretty decent with prices is Salvation Army and Savers but the others are ripping people off what a scam

  47. Pingback: Thrift Shopping Tips and Tricks | Looking Fly on a Dime

  48. NOT a NEW YORK thing! I live in Norfolk, VA and used to thrift all the time, No longer. The prices are higher than purchasing new at T.J.Max or Marshalls. I’m sad thrifting is over…have to find new ways to save….

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