Thrift Shopping Has Gone Upscale: Is That a Good Thing?

Posted On Thursday, October 29th, 2015
Filed Under: Thrift Stores

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There’s been something interesting/weird happening at some thrift stores lately. They’re going a bit upscale. Most notably is Goodwill, which has opened about 60 boutiques nationwide. These locations have more curated designer pieces, are more organized and have a feel of a department store to attract the desired millennial crowd.

I’m all about making thrifting easier and more accessible {so much so that I wrote a book on how to thrift shop!}, so I checked out the Goodwill boutique that recently opened in NYC’s Union Square. I wasn’t impressed.

goodwill-boutique-union-square-nyc-thrift-shop When I first walked in I thought the store looked like any other thrift store, especially a typical Goodwill. So I started going through the racks and didn’t notice much difference there either. The labels included a lot of Ann Taylor, a few vintage tops and tons, TONS of Target {Goodwill buys their unsold merch}.

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*tons of long sleeve shirts from Target*

And the prices were a bit high by thrift standards. Dresses averaged $12-$15, blazers were $15 and they weren’t designer labels, but fairly average pieces you could find at a department store or mall. When I visited the store, it had only been open for a few weeks, so maybe they were still working out the inventory and of course you never know what you’ll find any given time  when thrifting. I left a bit confused and even annoyed that I passed at least two Goodwills just to make my way to this location that felt like all the rest.

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This is the first Goodwill “boutique” I have ever visited, so maybe other locations are different and  have higher end pieces that are justified for the price. Also, the Salvation Army I frequent {46th Street} has a boutique on their top floor but it’s rarely open and it’s literally just a bunch of clothes curtained off in a corner.

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*$40 vintage top*

I’m not sure if hardcore thrift shoppers want or need the “boutique” feeling, experience and prices. This seems like a way to bring in non-thrifters and make them believers. But I wonder how successful that has been.

Thrift shops are opening high end boutiques. Is this a good thing? Click To Tweet

Have you ever visited a thrift shop boutique? Do you think these shops will encourage more people to thrift shop?

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10 thoughts on “Thrift Shopping Has Gone Upscale: Is That a Good Thing?

    • This new trend is so ridiculous. You’re right, you can always find better pieces elsewhere. You might have to dig a bit, but that’s fine by me!

  1. Hi Patrice,
    Seeing that “short coats starting at $19.99” sign makes me even more eager to check out your favorite Salvation Army’s coat sale instead….

    I had high hopes for the Union Square Goodwill, so I went just a few days after they’d opened (when, presumably, they’d still have had “exciting” pieces from their grand opening). While I was lucky enough to find a great dress, blouses and pants that I love,* it was only after hours (hours!) of digging through racks of either Ann Taylor Loft clothes that were quite nice and new, but just like the turtleneck above, emblazoned with “SAMPLE” all over them, or new Target clothes, but with prices higher than Target’s own sale and clearance prices. If you want a great Goodwill nearby, I highly recommend the 8th Street one. Their prices trend higher, but they also have a lot of designer brands, and artsy pieces.

    Also, to answer your question, the Goodwill on West 72nd St is probably considered a “boutique” (the manager told me that their expectation is that their customers are wealthier), so they never put any color of tags on sale. The only sales they ever have are when all of the Goodwills have sales (like Memorial Day, or a recent “regional” one). This would seem more reasonable if there weren’t a regular Goodwill (with plenty of tag color sales) only 7 blocks north, on West 79th St. I have come across plenty of designer brands in both stores, but it’s 79th St that I rely on to provide the well-priced, worth-the-search treasure that makes thrifting fun. The boutiques might encourage people to thrift if they’re accustomed to retail prices, but at the same time, if they know actual prices of current fast-fashion merchandise, the $12-retail-reduced-to-$11.99-at-Goodwill phenomenon that I’ve seen from time to time, might turn them away from thrifting entirely.

    *This may not still be true, but when I was there, they did also have a lot of shoes in size 6 and 6 1/2, which is too big for me, but might be great for your other petite-footed readers 🙂 If I might add a plug for a great store, The Little Shoe Store, at 40 Rivington St. has amazing vintage and new shoes for people with size 1-6 feet, and when they have a sale, the prices are really amazing (like between $10 and $35). Plus, the staff is really, really friendly and patient.

  2. I went to NYC with my boyfriend last March and we were on 72nd street (looking at the neighborhood we want to live in) and I was so happy to find a Goodwill there. I went in and found a beautiful Ann Taylor blouse and a couple of other shirts. I paid $10 for the Ann Taylor blouse which is a bit higher than what I would pay at my local Goodwill here in Florida but it’s a beautiful blouse, get lots of compliments on it. I enjoy your blog so much and I can’t wait to move to NYC in the spring and check out all these stores you and the readers talk about! I don’t know if you take readers of your blog shopping with you, but if you do I would love to do that as well.

    • Thanks Dusty! I don’t do group thrift tours any longer, but who knows, maybe I’ll change that this spring/summer 🙂

  3. goodwill is so outragious,i rarely shop there&salvation army has raised their prices too.i don’t get it,it’s supposed to be way less expensive,i went to salvation army yesterday&they had a pair of clearly worn uggs for $75.00& the knit on them had little balls all over the boots i told them they were crazy.you have too be careful with what you buy.

    • Wow, 75 bucks?! That is beyond crazy. True, you have to be so careful about not overspending and spending wisely.

  4. No to these boutique thift stores, I am such a frugal shopper and I will have a hard time paying such high prices. My favorite place is the goodwill outlet and then SA on tge day of everything 50%, that’s how I thrift lol

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