Wichita thrift shops are thriving

09/21/2011 12:00 AM

09/21/2011 6:02 AM

Local thrift stores, consignment stores and resale shops are seeing a resurgence in interest during the economic downturn as more shoppers search for bargains.

A host of new stores have opened in the area to satisfy buyers searching for good stuff cheap.

Goodwill Industries, one of the city's largest nonprofits, has opened several new locations since 2008, most recently at Harry and Rock Road. A store at 21st and Amidon is scheduled to open this fall.

Sales at their Wichita area stores have risen during the downturn, said Emily Compton, president and CEO of the group.

"I think people have discovered that shopping thrift stores provides them with new options for expensive wardrobes at economical prices."

A 2010 national survey by NARTS: The Association of Resale Professionals showed a growth in net sales of 12.7 percent between 2008 and 2009, the most recent year reported. The group said the number of stores grew about 7 percent a year in the past two years.

"As soon as the economy goes down, people look to save money, and we are a natural for that," said Adele Meyer, the group's executive director.

A couple shopping at the Second Blessing Thrift Shop, 2323 E. Central, were looking for furniture and for clothes for their soon-to-be-born son.

"We're a little tight on money," said Brian McGee, as Ashley Watson stood next to him holding a red onesie with "Little Devil" written on it.

"Why spend $40 on an outfit he'll only wear, what, a month?" Watson said.

There is a real difference between thrift shops and consignment shops, even though both sell lower-priced used merchandise.

Thrift shops tend to resell donated goods. Some thrift store owners and executives say that donations tend to fall during bad times as fewer people dispose of old items to make room for new ones.

Compton said Goodwill Industries of Kansas is seeing donations rise.

"But we can always use more," she said.

On the other hand, consignment stores report a surge of goods from people seeking to make a little extra money. Consignment shops sell goods owned by somebody else and collect a percentage when the item sells. It's up to the store owner or manager to decide whether to accept items for resale.

And then there's a third model at Rock Star Boxer, 1900 W. 13th St.

Co-owner Earth Kerr said they scour thrift stores and garage sales for the best of the best, buy it and resell it to people who are interested in both cheap and funky.

"There has always been an underground that has gone to thrift stores," Kerr said, "but now it's much more popular — the treasures that can be had in the second-hand world."

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