Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tres chic, tres cheap

Here's another head-scratcher from the recession front. Better stuff is showing up in second-hand and thrift stores these days. Some shoppers complain it's getting pricey.

Ms. Ktnomics and I checked out some familiar stores and a couple new ones this weekend. It was too hot and wet outside to garden or tackle some house painting I need to get to. We saw a $6.99 designer sports jacket that looks a lot better than a no-name I need to replace, a virtually new Brooks Brothers suit for under $10 and whole lot of other stuff for $5 and under that we would have snapped up not long ago. But not now. We also saw stuff priced for almost what department stores charge on closeouts.

Time magazine, among others, has been tracking many changes that thrift and the recession are bringing to retailers. Suburban malls that once lusted after names such as Saks or Macy's now hail organizations like Savers or Maj-R Thrift instead.

Shopping second hand is a bit different than hitting the mall used to be, though I don't agree with some of the advice Reader's Digest recently published. It suggests focusing on stores in nice neighborhoods. I usually have better luck looking for relative clusters of stores and going with first impressions among the choices there. Shopping second hand stores also is a lot like going to farm or household auctions when I was a kid. Some days you see bargains and some days you simply need to wait until another time.

Two things have changed. The Internet makes it a lot easier to find both for-profit resellers and non-profit resale centers. Unfortunately, the same wired-technology also makes it easier for lenders to see where you shop if you use plastic. Some reportedly get antsy if suddenly words such as Salvation and Army pop up. So pay cash. It's also a good way rein in impulse spending if you stumble into a bargain bonanza.

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