What are Thrift Stores & Why People Love Them

by John-Paul Cody

Thrift stores are unlike any other business.

You’ll find items you couldn’t find anywhere else. Not only that, thrift store prices are incredibly low compared to other stores.

I’ve been to countless thrift stores over the years, and will explain what is a thrift store and why you’ll love visiting one. 

What are thrift stores? 

Thrift stores sell a wide range of used items at deeply discounted prices. Items sold by thrift stores are usually donated from people and businesses in the community. 

It may come as a surprise, but you’ll often find new items sold at thrift stores at amazing prices too. 

Some people make the mistake of thinking thrift stores are full of garbage, but as the saying goes one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. 

Not to mention, there’s endless stories from people finding highly rare and valuable items. 

One example comes from a Goodwill shopper who found an unusual $3 painting that turned out to be a 17th-century Flemish painting, which sold for $190,000 in 2012

Thrift Stores vs Consignment Stores 

While thrift stores and consignment shops probably seem the same to the average person, there are several important differences. 

So, what are thrift stores compared to consignment shops?

shoes-in-thrift-store 

The first being how each store gets their inventory. As mentioned above, thrift stores receive items through donations from local citizens and businesses. 

Consignment stores, on the other hand, get their inventory from people who bring in items for the store to sell on their behalf. 

As you can imagine, this leads to pretty different product offerings between stores, which brings us to the second difference – inventory selection. 

Thrift stores usually have a wider range of items, many of which will have more wear than items in consignment shops. 

It’s not unusual to find items in thrift stores that are broken or in questionable working order. The thing is, some broken items can still fetch great money on online marketplaces or be repaired.

In my experience, you can still find stuff in thrift stores in excellent or even new condition. However, it might take a little more searching, but for many people (including myself), this creates the treasure hunting element of thrift stores. 

Almost all items in consignment stores will be high quality or new. But as you guessed, prices are going to be higher than thrift stores. 

Consignment store’s inventory will be more similar to a pawn shop than a thrift store in most cases. 

What kind of stuff do you find at thrift stores? 

A better question might be ‘what items don’t you find at thrift stores?’ because the truth is, it’s possible to find just about anything, except maybe vehicles. 

Thrift stores attract so many people partly because they have such a wide variety of items. 

If you are a collector or reseller, this is a fantastic place to source inventory. Thrift stores are worth it for casual shopping as well.

Here are three of my favorite thrift finds over the years:

1. Riedell Roller Blades 

roller-blades-from-thrift-store

I found these cool Riedell roller blades in mint condition from a local thrift store. 

Not only were they in excellent condition, as you can see in the picture it came with the original box, extra wheels, and laces. 

I paid around $35 for these, and sold them for $120 on eBay. 

2. Red UFO Parachute Pants 

parachute-pants-from-thrift-store

These were mixed in the pants section of a Goodwill in my hometown. Not only that, there were 5-6 other pairs in great condition. 

I paid $3 for these and sold them for $50 on eBay within a few weeks. 

3. Sony Video Camera

video-camera-from-thrift-store

I was very surprised to find this at a thrift store, especially with all these extras. The video camera worked great and showed virtually zero wear.

I paid $30 for the camera and sold it for $250 on eBay about 6 months later.

In terms of product categories at thrift stores, these are common: 

  • Clothing 
  • Shoes 
  • Artwork 
  • TVs
  • Video Games & Toys 
  • Jewelry 
  • Kitchen Gadgets
  • Books/Magazines 
  • Cameras
  • Movies 
  • Hats 
  • Glassware 
  • Appliances 
  • Lawn Mowers 
  • Doors/Windows 

Thrift Store Prices Compared to Other Stores

You won’t find the types of prices you’ll find at thrift stores anywhere else. 

Most thrift store prices range from $0.50-$15.00, and some even price items by the pound, like the Goodwill Outlets (see below). 

  • Home Goods/Clothing/Textiles under 25 lbs.- $1.59 per pound
  • Home Goods/Clothing/Textiles over 25 lbs. – $1.29 per pound
  • Shoes & Purses under 25 lbs. – $1.59 per pound
  • Shoes & Purses over 25 lbs. – $1.29 per pound
  • Electronics – $0.69 per pound
  • Glassware – $0.69 per pound

You might be wondering, how can they charge such low prices? 

Since they get their inventory from donations, their cost of goods is zero. Therefore, they can reduce prices below what any other big box store could possibly match. 

About the Author

Photo of author
John-Paul Cody has been an avid online seller for years, across platforms including eBay, Mercari, Craigslist, and more. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from UNC Chapel Hill, and works in data analytics and marketing.