Local secondhand stores riding high

BY CHRIS CLARK | JUNE 12, 2009 7:26 AM

Historically, secondhand retail shops thrive during recession because of low prices. But Sheila Davisson said style keeps customers coming to her store, Revival, 117 E. College St.

“It feels as though you’re shopping in a regular store with new clothes,” Davisson said, and she’s starting to see new customers — both buying and selling clothes — who may not usually shop in secondhand shops.

“People are trying to make their clothing go a little bit further, trying to make a little extra money wherever they can,” she said.

Davisson said her store attracts customers because the clothing is unique and still in good shape — a result of being “very selective” in what she buys and sells. The trend to “go green” may also attract people trying to reuse and recycle clothing, she added.

Revival is a consignment shop, so Davisson pays sellers either 30 percent of an item’s estimated selling price in cash or 55 percent in store credit.

That’s what sets Revival apart from a thrift store, such as Goodwill, which only accepts donations.
UI senior Nick Wilkins said he shops at secondhand stores a few times a year — usually when he has to dress up for fraternity events.

“You can find unique stuff that’s not too expensive,” he said. “For a barn dance last year, I found a pair of overalls and a shirt for under $15.”

He said his girlfriend, also a UI student, often accompanies him — searching for anything that might be “cute.”

In Coralville, Dana Engelbert, the vice president of marketing at Goodwill of the Heartland, said she has also seen a growing number of new customers.

It is a trend she expected, she said. Her store serves customers outside the area, places where people may be suffering harder from the poor job market, she said.

“Typically, our shoppers are looking for good value, a good deal,” she said. “But folks are being more price-conscious. They want to stretch that dollar a little bit further.”

Tough economic times have “had a bit of a positive effect” on the number of people shopping in her stores and the amount of donations they receive, Engelbert said. She said the store has seen a steady number of donations over the past year, which “is working for right now.”

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