Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Omens on the rack at the thrift store's half price sale?

I counted 100 cars in one of our neighborhood thrift store's fog shrouded parking lot when the doors opened 7 a.m. Monday for a half price Labor Day sale. One day later, the Federal Reserve reports the biggest drop ever in consumer borrowing in July. I don't think it's a coincidence.

Consumers are tapped out, writes commentator Jason Kelly. And there's more anecdotal evidence that frugality is becoming more than a passing fancy, reporters Jeff Harrington in St. Petersburg, Fla. and Ashley Heher in Chicago found in their one-year retrospectives of the nation's financial near meltdown.

We don't yet know how main line retailers fared over the holiday. Many were sweating it though, reports's Janine Poggi. Labor Day is one of the last big holidays before Christmas shopping starts and August's back to school sales weren't booming.

But business is getting brisker around the nation's 25,000 thrift shops, according to the National Association of Retail and Thrift Shops. About one in six shoppers, something between 16 percent and 18 percent - surveyed by the group has either visited a thrift shop or plans to this year. That's more than factory outlet malls are expected to draw and almost as many as the 23 percent headed to big name department stores.

Thrift store buying also is a potential second income source, eBay coach Suzanne Wells writes on She offers advice on reselling your thrift store treasures online. Just be aware that shopping thrift stores is labor intensive whether you plan to resell or not. Here are some tips Parade magazine recently offered to help get you started.

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