Neon open sign in a store window.

What is Thrifting? Let's go "Thrifting."

Thrifting is secondhand clothing shopping. It does not require the clothes to be vintage, nor does it require the clothes be in a particular store or sold by a particular vendor, thrifting simply requires that the clothes you are browsing and purchasing are used. Thrifting can be done anywhere, in-person or online, in vintage specialty shops or donation stores. Thrifting as an act of shopping is not exclusive to clothing items, you may also thrift for furniture, old machines or technologies, home-goods, sporting-goods, and entertainment. Ranging from garage sales to donation network stores and specialty used-goods shops, the offerings and their pricing vary based on the store and the product being evaluated. Thrifting is almost always the process of searching through rows of unique items grouped by category (with occasional duplicates - usually grouped together on the rack because they were purchased or donated at the same time).

What Does it Mean to Go Thrifting?

“Thrifting” is a verb to replace shopping, thrifting also defines the type of stores and shopping you will be doing. To go thrifting is to shop in used clothing stores. Thrifting does not limit you as to where you ultimately find the clothing, so long as the intent was to buy secondhand items. Finding used clothing at a garage sale, flea market, estate sale, charity store, donation center, or a used clothing store, thrifting has evolved into a full-day's worth of stores and places to visit and shop.

Thrift Stores

Some stores will directly call themselves “thrift stores.” This just means that they sell secondhand goods, either via consignment, donation, sourcing and reselling or any other combination or distribution method. Thrift stores are for everyone and finding amazing pieces of clothing in them is less difficult than one would imagine.

Online Thrift Stores

Ecommerce stores or marketplaces that sell used goods to the public. The only difference between sites that sell used clothing and other items to online users is if the site is operated and curated by a single vendor, or if it is a marketplace with listings made and submitted by various vendors/individuals. The level of curation is also important in this case, since you can not see the physical piece in person and touch the fabric and inspect it for damages and compare it to your size, you must rely on the words of the used clothing seller. Making the relationship between online thrift sellers and thrifters one of mutual benefit if done well. Thrifting online is a fast and highly selective process, reducing the amount of random items you need to wade through to find what you want. Online thrifting can be done with a simple search for the exact piece you are looking for, or searching through an online collection of used goods until a particular item peaks your interest. Secondhand clothing shopping online is growing and sellers are getting better at catering to the interests of their expanding audiences.

The Growth of Thrifting and Secondhand Clothing

According to ThredUp research, the secondhand clothing market will reach $64 billion by 2024. And online thrifting has played a massive part in this growth, online shopping for secondhand clothing is projected to grow by 69% between 2019 and 2021. This is largely thanks to the proliferation of secondhand clothing marketplaces like Depop, Etsy, Ebay, Mercari, Poshmark, and more - but the growth of individually owned and operated online vintage stores is not as visible.

High-End Vintage Secondhand Clothing

Thrifting does not specify what kinds of shops or products you are shopping for, but within the world of secondhand clothing the types of products and product offerings can be extremely stratified. Some vintage clothing garments will sell for thousands while traditional thrifting was meant to be a cost-effective shopping experience. Secondhand designer goods and the popularity of vintage clothing has raised the price tag on all secondhand clothing, but not without the influence of other factors, such as the growth of the industry, general inflation, the trend towards sustainable fashion rather than new clothing, and the sophistication of the product-listings and listing sites.


Ultimately the proliferation and trend towards secondhand clothing shopping and buying is beneficial to the planet as a whole. There is still too much secondhand clothing in circulation for current supply chain networks to handle which leads to massive amounts of clothing ending in landfills. Which is why the more demand there is for secondhand clothing the more the industry will be able to save before it becomes waste-product. Demand for secondhand clothing and adequate supply and accessible offerings for shopping will also decrease the demand for new clothing and the production of new clothing. Slowing down the production of new clothing and shifting to recycling and reusing of clothing already in circulation is an important step for the fashion industry and the future of global sustainability. Sustainable fashion requires the use and reuse of clothing items and the ability to productively capture and recapture the value of secondhand clothing rather than turning it into waste-product. Access to secondhand clothing and demand for secondhand clothing is highly important to the fashion industry as a whole and ultimately to global sustainability. Whether you thrift in person or online, the bottom-line is that you are participating in the best solution available to individual shoppers that are environmentally and fashion conscious.