The Case for Shopping Secondhand First

  • 12/03/2018
  • Reporters Desk

By Leslie Belt, Contributing Writer

Along the avenues of the San Pedro arts district and beyond there has emerged a kind of home-grown market for all things retro and vintage—timeless, one-of-a-kind fashion to collectible records, books, and ephemera to antique furniture and used (but still useful) housewares. To be clear, these are not the kind of items that flash across our digital screens in advertisements by the big-box stores. Nor are these the kind of shops frequented by those looking for the latest, greatest or most desirable fads of the moment (as defined by corporate marketers). In fact, these establishments and their wares are valued by an increasing number of treasure hunters/shoppers for being just the opposite.

According to the 2018 Resale Market and Trend Report (conducted by online reseller thredUP), one in three women age 18 or older, as well as a whopping 40 percent of millennials reported that they had shopped resale [read: retro retail, vintage, second hand and thrift] over the past year. Do the math and it is no big surprise that the same study found that resale is growing at nine times the rate of legacy retail. So if not slick advertising, what is the driving force behind this market disrupting trend? Industry watchers suggest it’s a growing consumer awareness of many factors related to the impact of retail.

The spend-versus-value proposition factor

‘Tis the season to get your shopping on. Recent data from the National Retail Federation sheds light on exactly what is at stake. Retailers report that fully 30 percent of their annual sales now occur between Black Friday (consumerism speak for the Friday after Thanksgiving) and Christmas. In fact, shoppers in the United States spent a record $5 billion in the 24 hours  of Black Friday in 2017!

With average household credit-card debt now topping $15,000 (which costs more than $900 in interest annually), who can afford to ignore the spend-versus-value proposition that resale offers? When it comes to clothing, electronics, and furniture alone, thredUP estimates that buying used instead of new for just one year would save you nearly $2,500.  Still not convinced? Try this fun fact on for size: resale apparel typically sells at a 70 percent discount compared to retail price. Perhaps not coincidentally, the same data also suggests that 13 percent of the most active thrifters — those spending upwards of $10,000 per year — are millionaires.

The save the planet while saving a buck factor

Although the popularity of thrifting began to surge with the 2008 recession, there is no question that environmental cost is increasingly a factor in purchasing decisions. Millennials lead the way; 35 percent say they are shifting away from retail for environmental reasons. Good thinking, especially when it  comes to clothing. It takes approximately 2,700 liters of water — about what one person drinks in 2 ½ years — to make one cotton shirt. While easier on land and water, a polyester shirt has more than double the carbon footprint of  a cotton shirt. And thanks to cheaper retail clothing options (think Walmart, T.J. Maxx, etc.) millennials as well as more than one third of women now discard items of clothing after wearing them less than five times.  Buying a used garment extends its life by more than two years, which translates into a 73 percent decrease it its carbon, waste and water footprints. If everyone bought used clothes instead of new for just one year, the planet would eliminate as much CO2 as removing every car from the  roads of Los Angeles for four years, while saving as much electricity as is consumed by 32 million households annually, as well as enough water to quench California’s thirst for 14 years.

The ‘cool’ factor

Think fast, what do beatniks, hippies and hipsters all have in common? If you said the Salvation Army or Goodwill you are on the right track. But seriously, it is time for you to start thinking local. Random Lengths News recently took a closer look at four of San Pedro’s many vintage/thrift/retro shops on the leading edge of the growing consumer trend of shopping second hand first.

House 1002  (1002 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro)

House 1002 is a uniquely curated home emporium founded by a collective of local artists and designers. Occupying a 6,000 square foot showroom in a historic 1920s building, House 1002 offers one-of-a-kind pieces for the home, including vintage items, artisanal jewelry, architectural salvage, collectibles, garden accessories and fine art. Unlike traditional retail spaces, House 1002 celebrates both individuality and community, the new and the old, the traditional and avant-garde. Fiercely devoted to San Pedro, the members of the House Collective point out why they call it home in this excerpt from their website: “San Pedro is one of those cities that has remained largely under the radar. Tucked away, and easily overlooked by its brassier neighbors to the north and south, San Pedro has a long and proud history and boasts a tight-knit community.”

JDC Records (447 W. 6th St., San Pedro)

As previously noted by Random Lengths News reporter, Lyn Jensen,  JDC Records offers music fans an increasingly rare opportunity to spend happy hours digging through store bins hunting for a variety of media — 331/3 revolutions per minute, 45 rpm, compact discs and even a few cassette tapes — as well as collectibles, DVDs,  shirts, and other finds that only come from old-fashioned store shopping.

Owner Jim Callon sums up the growing appeal of vinyl this way. “I have been in and around the music industry for some 50 years. I always believed in vinyl. I am noticing that for some of our younger customers it is a brand-new sound. They are used to hearing streamed music, which  is just so compressed.  Hearing music played the way it was made keeps them coming back I think.  That and the  fact that when they buy an album they are getting a real thing that they can hold in their hands. You can’t do that with an MP3. All in all, it’s just an entirely different experience than people get downloading 4,000 songs on a device and then hitting ‘random select’.”

Dramatique (319 W 6th St., San Pedro)

Rocking the motto “Anything but Ordinary” for more than a decade, Dramatique is the place to find everything a girl wants — including jewelry, shoes, purses, lingerie, hats, leather and lace, vintage, costumes, theatrical and fun dressing for special occasions as well as year round. It’s a distinct difference from traditional vintage or thrift store fare.

“People come to Dramatique because they know they will find timeless, high-end garments at a fraction of what they originally cost,”  owner Martine Klein said. “These are people who want to go to a party and be the only one who is wearing ‘that’ dress. They want to be different, that’s why they don’t buy off the rack at a traditional retail shop … What sets my store apart, I think, is that I have sought out and purchased every item with these customers in mind. ”

Beacon House Exchange Thrift Store  (812 S. Pacific Ave.)

Unlike the shops featured above, The Beacon House Exchange is a non-profit thrift store, gathering and selling a wide array of donated goods. These treasures include household goods, furniture, books and clothing.  Even better, Beacon House is a registered 501-c3 charity organization and will provide a sheet tax purposes for when you donate.

“I think that our thrift store is different than most in two important ways. First, as a non-profit dedicated to supporting men in recovery from the disease of alcoholism or drug addiction, all of the goods that we sell have been donated.” Store Manager Shane Fleming explains.

“Given the number of men who face this struggle on an ongoing basis, plus the fact that addiction cuts across every social and cultural boundary, new stuff is arriving every day and there is always a huge range in the types of merchandise that we have to offer.  Secondly, all of the men who work in our store, including me,  are either current residents or graduates of the program.  In addition to the food, shelter and counseling that proceeds from this store provide, this workforce development experience offers an invaluable opportunity to help these men build a foundation in recovery and ultimately  return to family, home and community.”

You’ll find contact information for these and other vendors in RLn’s recently published Retro Pedro guide  at www.randomlengthsnews.com/retropedro.

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