As a result of the temporary closures of big donation stores like Value Village and Goodwill, people who are passionate about thrifting have found other ways to purchase secondhand items. Smaller, local stores have taken advantage of their online platforms to continue selling and supporting the community, while thrifting apps such as Depop have become popular and accessible. Some secondhand sellers are having to rethink their market.
Bellingham-based vintage and upcycling clothing brand, Rugged and REclaimed, sells clothes through its Instagram and hosts rummage sales and pop-ups. Co-owners Ginger Gionet and Eloise Gibson have temporarily halted their clothing sales since the start of the pandemic. Gionet said that she has been debating on listing clothing during this time.
“It’s just been hard to know what to do as a small business,” Gionet said. “We just don't know if it's right to try to put things on sale or if that feels like it's insensitive. It's tricky.”
Much of Gionet and Gibson’s focus has been putting on rummage sales. Because that can't happen at the moment, they are working on a website.
Their rummage sales in the past have been full-house events. Gionet said it’s hard to know when they will be able to host a sale but that having mandatory masks, clothing more spread out and providing gloves could be an option in the future.
Riley Wilmart, a second-year student at Western, said she has been online thrifting more since the beginning of the stay-at-home order. She said she prefers shopping through Depop because it offers a more personal thrifting experience.
“I like being able to know who I’m buying from and seeing the seller and that kind of thing,” she said. “I’ve been buying things from Depop like all the time.”
Wilmart said she has also been selling items through Depop in order to clean out her closet. She follows many accounts on Instagram that list clothing. She said she thinks more thrift stores might begin to grow their online presence during this time.
“I hope that thrift stores are doing that because I want thrifting to stay alive and there's really great shops out there,” she said. “I’m sad they are getting hit by the virus as much as they are.”
Levi Russel, owner of the Bellingham-based online thrift store, Thrifty, said that when given his 6-week pay leave from work, he took the chance to focus on creating a website for his business.
Thrifty’s focus is on providing people with affordable and unique curated clothing, as well as throwing thrifting events and providing fashion content through Instagram. Russel said he has been holding off items in his apartment since last summer for the possibility of a website.
“I’ve wanted to do a website for a while and now that I've had more free time and there has been a big surge in people trying to online shop, it definitely motivated me to start getting an online website curated,” he said.
Russell’s spring plans such as the vintage market downtown, clothing swaps and booths at Western’s campus have been canceled. Thrifty was planning on hosting its third fashion show in October, but Russell said those plans have been postponed due to uncertainty caused by COVID.
Russel came up with innovative ways to thrift during this time. He said he has rummaged through his friend's old clothing and was able to find some vintage gems while going through his grandpa's old clothes. He said he has purchased many things on Depop as well.
“I think it's really pushed a lot of people in alternative ways,” he said.
Russell created a discount Thrifty Instagram page for the clothes he was ready to get rid of with all items sold for $5 to people in the Bellingham area. He is hoping the online store will be just as successful.
Gionet wants to sell more online through the Rugged and REclaimed website. Gionet said she was also thinking of hosting a virtual rummage sale on Zoom. In the meantime, Gionet and Gibson are selling handmade, custom, vintage fabric masks for $5 on their Instagram.
Wilmart said she considers thrifting online as a form of retail therapy while staying at home. She enjoys thrifting because of the thrill of searching for vintage styles and the environmental aspects of buying secondhand. Her favorite recent purchases include a sundress, authentic U.S. Navy pants, overalls and a leather jacket.
“I personally just like a piece of clothing that has been worn before and has an age to it,” she said. “Just a feeling of it being, not rundown, but worn in.”