How the Rise of ‘Thrifting’ Signals a Shift in Retail in Canada

Date:

Share post:

As Canadians become increasingly environmentally conscious, consumers’ shopping habits and requirements are shifting. Brands are being coerced into transparency in order to maintain relevance and respect with their sustainability-conscious shoppers. The shift from black box brands to glass box brands has been prevalent, arguably all for the greater good, but consumers are also looking at alternative routes to fulfill their fashion needs without leaving a carbon footprint.

A once stigmatized necessity for some, thrifting is quickly becoming one of fashions most talked about trends in Canada as well as abroad. With an array of thrifting options, both online and within traditional brick and mortar stores, consumers can shop second hand as easily as they’ve always shopped new.

With social media influencers and celebrities making thrifting trendy, and fashion’s cyclical nature perpetually time-turning us back to previous decades, thrifting today is both a popular and convenient method of sourcing new fashion items.

But what’s really driving this thrift store movement?

PHOTO: RACKED

Environmental Reasons?

It’s a known fact that the textile industry is one of the biggest polluters in our modern society. The toll textile production takes on our environment is enormous, and as education around this topic becomes more accessible, many are choosing to shop sustainably where they can.

People are changing their consumer habits where they can, demanding more ethical practices from the brands they support, shopping secondhand, and avoiding the endorsement of fast-fashion retailers. This shift in consumerism is spreading, however, it doesn’t negate the fact that the fashion business is continuously growing, and at a rapid pace. In the last thirty years, fashion has grown from a $500 billion trade to a $2.4 trillion-a-year global behemoth.

For each great, ethical reason to shop sustainably, there’s one hundred social media influences promoting “come thrift with me” videos on Youtube or the “amazing thrift store finds” they discovered through their partnerships with different online consignment platforms. Although perhaps promoting positive consumer habits, these videos and articles not directly promoting educated consumerism. This trend is not necessarily marketed as a sustainably conscious route to satisfying your wardrobe needs. Rather it is showcased as a fun and effective way to find vintage or unusual items to add to your attire — perhaps bargain clothing that is fun to wear for a season but, because it didn’t cost you much, will end up in landfill within a year.

With that said, the big players of online consignment such as Poshmark and DePop are inevitably infiltrating younger generations and creating a community of thrifters. For example, the world’s largest online consignment store, ThredUp, has redistributed 65 million garments to date, as part of its “resale revolution.”

To Thrift or to Consign?

Traditionally, thrift stores, or ‘charity shops’ as they’re known in the UK, were established to service those on the lower end of the economic scale. The aim was to clothe the poor or homeless for a small price, with the proceeds going to charity. Making their way into larger Canadian cities in the early 1990s, thrift stores such as Goodwill and The Salvation Army were leading the game, with all proceeds going directly to their respective charities or religious missions. This is still the case for some, however, thrifting has taken on a new persona and the nature of the industry is changing rapidly.

As thrifting becomes more mainstream, the line between consignment stores and thrift stores has become blurred. Traditionally, as mentioned above, thrift stores are not-for-profit. They receive donations and any profits made go directly to charity. Consignment stores, on the other hand, sell secondhand items on behalf of the original owner, who receives a percentage of the selling price, hence the word “consign.” The difference is quite drastic but often the terminology is used interchangeably, creating confusion within the secondhand consumerism world.

PHOTO: REDMOND REPORTER

Value Village, for example, has come under scrutiny for its drastic price increase in recent years. People were understandably angry when clothing became almost unaffordable for some who had relied on Value Village over the years. However, Value Village technically doesn’t fall into either the “thrift” or “consignment” category. It does not consign items for those who donate; in other words, you do not receive financial credits or otherwise when you donate your items to Value Village. However, the store also operates under a for-profit agenda, technically meaning it is not a thrift store. Yes, it seems contradictory to increase prices of donated clothing that are traditionally intended for people in need, but ultimately Value Village is working towards making a profit.

In 2016, Goodwill closed its Toronto locations because of a cash flow crisis. Faced with competition from other thrift and consignment stores, Goodwill failed to remain financially stable in the fickle world of secondhand consumerism.

DESIGNER EXCHANGE STORES EXIST ALL OVER THE WORLD, INCLUDING CANADA. PHOTO: DESIGNER EXCHANGE

Consequences of Thrifting

Clearly this new wave of thrifting culture is changing the game. It is hindering the more traditional stores in terms of cash flow and in some places, driving a price increase and making thrifting an almost exclusive pastime once again, ironically for polar opposite reasons. For all its negative attributions, however, it is hard to deny that this new trend is not also doing a lot of good. As people continue to shop sustainably, whether it be through traditional channels, boutique consignment stores, or online, it is inevitably contributing to the decrease in our carbon footprint.

As it stands, thrifting isn’t powerful enough to steal market share from mainstream retailers, however with so many closures being announced, it is a possible contributor to the lack of cashflow and foot traffic in malls around the country.

Thoughts on Luxury

Some luxury brands are actually embracing the thrifting trend, as consumers gravitate towards quality items. Some second-hand shoppers have found luxury brands second-hand and have become fans of the brands. With resale prices being strong for some major labels, shoppers may end up selling their secondhand purchases at a profit and may actually purchase new items from luxury brands, which creates a new market that may have not otherwise existed.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More From Retail Insider

Canada’s Competition Bureau Launches Investigation into Loblaws and Sobeys [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that grocers must recognize that today's market is different, with consumers being less tolerant of practices limiting access to affordable food.

Anatomy of a Leader: Sarah Segal, CEO of DAVIDsTEA

Segal discusses her career and how she got to to where she is today, as well as a family history that includes founding a toy store in Montreal and big banners such as Le Chateau.

Apple Launches Tap to Pay on iPhone in Canada, Revolutionizing Contactless Payments for Businesses

Apple says it will allow businesses to seamlessly and securely accept payments using an iPhone and app, adding competition to the crowded payments space.

Half a Billion Dollar Downtown Ottawa Revitalization Announced to Bring Vibrancy to the Core [Feature/Interviews]

The Ottawa Board of Trade and the Canadian Urban Institute launched the initiative that will create new retail opportunities with the addition of 40,000 new residents and 50,000 jobs over 10 years, creating a more vibrant core that will be a destination.

Bayview Village to Overhaul Property with Marble Flooring and Luxe Interior, New Retailers and Restaurants Being Added [Exclusive Renderings/Interviews]

The Toronto shopping centre at Bayview and Sheppard is being transformed into something unrecognizable, creating a 'European-style' centre unlike competitors in the region.

Food Prices Dropping in Canada, Mainstream Media Fails to Report [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that food prices are declining according to StatCan data, but that media and the public have been focusing elsewhere.

Innovative App ‘Too Good To Go’ Rescues 4.2 Million Meals in Canada Since 2022, Plans for Expansion [Interview]

The innovative platform is looking to expand by adding more retailers, after launching two years ago by offering consumers excess end-of-day edible goods from a wide range of businesses.

New Hockey Legends Training Facility in Markham ON Elevates Player Skills with Cutting-Edge Technology [Interview]

The unique indoor training concept allows players to practice including improving shooting and stickhandling skills.

Arc’teryx Opens First ‘Alpha’ Store Concept on Bloor Street in Toronto [Photos]

The largest Arc'teryx store also focuses heavily on product care, and is located on the Mink Mile in the Holt Renfrew Centre.

Waterworks Food Hall to Open in Downtown Toronto Next Month, Showcasing 20 Gourmet Vendors in Historic Location [Interview/Photos]

The highly anticipated food hall on Richmond Street will span 55,000 square feet and will add more food and beverage competition in the downtown core with a range of hand-picked specialty vendors.

Bluenotes Launches ‘Unplug’ Activewear Shop-in-Shops in Stores Across Canada [Interview/Photos]

It's the first activewear line for the Canadian retailer, with dedicated shop-in-stores being part of a segment that is growing rapidly.

A Grocer Code of Conduct Could have Prevented Canada’s Bread Cartel [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that the grocer code aims to curb illegal activities that would make it tougher to orchestrate such schemes.

From Barbie to Thomas the Tank Engine: How Toy and Entertainment Brands are Adapting to Generation Alpha [Op-Ed]

A new more 'woke' generation means that toys and entertainment deemed acceptable in the past are no longer desirable to a new set of consumers.

Anatomy of a Leader: Dave Minnett, CEO of Edo Japan

Minnett discusses how his education and early years at Molson led him into different business avenues before landing at Edo in 2016, where he's implementing change.

Downtown Banff Welcomes New Mountain Warehouse Store Amidst National Expansion [Photos]

The UK-based outdoor retailer operates 43 stores in Canada, making it the second-largest market outside of the UK. The Banff Mountain Warehouse is next to a former Hudson's Bay that will see Arc'teryx open there next year.

Mandated $20/hour Living Wage Could Drive 600,000 Canadian Small Businesses to Closure, Warns CFIB Report [Interview]

CFIB policy analyst says that governments are setting these wages with no anchor in economic reality, while impacting thousands of small businesses already struggling.

Stokes Inc. Invests in Store Renovations and New Gift Line to Reinforce Market Presence [Interview]

The Canadian retailer of kitchenware, tableware, and homeware is upgrading its operations after a pandemic restructuring, including enhancing the online and in-store experience while launching new products.

How Big Food Companies Can Do More to Create Healthier Food Environments [Op-Ed]

A team of researchers wanted to understand the commitments companies have made to create healthier food environments in Canada, and to see if things had improved since an earlier 2018 study.

Canadian Custom Clothing Brand ‘Surmesur’ Expanding with New Locations, and Partnership with NHL Coaches’ Association [Interview]

The Quebec-based custom suit and clothing brand has grown significantly since the pandemic, with new and relocated showrooms and successful partnerships including making suits for NHL coaches.

Toronto’s Waterfront BIA Releases Comprehensive Report to Boost District’s Vibrancy and Retail Experience [Feature]

The report contains an overview of the planning context and best practices relevant to the area, a built-form review of existing commercial spaces, research summarizing the current retail conditions, and the results of surveys conducted with waterfront business owners, residents, and visitors.

RECENT RETAIL INSIDER VIDEOS

Advertisment

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Subscribe

* indicates required

RECENT articles

Canada’s Competition Bureau Launches Investigation into Loblaws and Sobeys [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that grocers must recognize that today's market is different, with consumers being less tolerant of practices limiting access to affordable food.

Anatomy of a Leader: Sarah Segal, CEO of DAVIDsTEA

Segal discusses her career and how she got to to where she is today, as well as a family history that includes founding a toy store in Montreal and big banners such as Le Chateau.

Apple Launches Tap to Pay on iPhone in Canada, Revolutionizing Contactless Payments for Businesses

Apple says it will allow businesses to seamlessly and securely accept payments using an iPhone and app, adding competition to the crowded payments space.

Half a Billion Dollar Downtown Ottawa Revitalization Announced to Bring Vibrancy to the Core [Feature/Interviews]

The Ottawa Board of Trade and the Canadian Urban Institute launched the initiative that will create new retail opportunities with the addition of 40,000 new residents and 50,000 jobs over 10 years, creating a more vibrant core that will be a destination.

Bayview Village to Overhaul Property with Marble Flooring and Luxe Interior, New Retailers and Restaurants Being Added [Exclusive Renderings/Interviews]

The Toronto shopping centre at Bayview and Sheppard is being transformed into something unrecognizable, creating a 'European-style' centre unlike competitors in the region.

Food Prices Dropping in Canada, Mainstream Media Fails to Report [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that food prices are declining according to StatCan data, but that media and the public have been focusing elsewhere.

Innovative App ‘Too Good To Go’ Rescues 4.2 Million Meals in Canada Since 2022, Plans for Expansion [Interview]

The innovative platform is looking to expand by adding more retailers, after launching two years ago by offering consumers excess end-of-day edible goods from a wide range of businesses.

New Hockey Legends Training Facility in Markham ON Elevates Player Skills with Cutting-Edge Technology [Interview]

The unique indoor training concept allows players to practice including improving shooting and stickhandling skills.

Arc’teryx Opens First ‘Alpha’ Store Concept on Bloor Street in Toronto [Photos]

The largest Arc'teryx store also focuses heavily on product care, and is located on the Mink Mile in the Holt Renfrew Centre.

Waterworks Food Hall to Open in Downtown Toronto Next Month, Showcasing 20 Gourmet Vendors in Historic Location [Interview/Photos]

The highly anticipated food hall on Richmond Street will span 55,000 square feet and will add more food and beverage competition in the downtown core with a range of hand-picked specialty vendors.

Bluenotes Launches ‘Unplug’ Activewear Shop-in-Shops in Stores Across Canada [Interview/Photos]

It's the first activewear line for the Canadian retailer, with dedicated shop-in-stores being part of a segment that is growing rapidly.

A Grocer Code of Conduct Could have Prevented Canada’s Bread Cartel [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that the grocer code aims to curb illegal activities that would make it tougher to orchestrate such schemes.

From Barbie to Thomas the Tank Engine: How Toy and Entertainment Brands are Adapting to Generation Alpha [Op-Ed]

A new more 'woke' generation means that toys and entertainment deemed acceptable in the past are no longer desirable to a new set of consumers.

Anatomy of a Leader: Dave Minnett, CEO of Edo Japan

Minnett discusses how his education and early years at Molson led him into different business avenues before landing at Edo in 2016, where he's implementing change.

Downtown Banff Welcomes New Mountain Warehouse Store Amidst National Expansion [Photos]

The UK-based outdoor retailer operates 43 stores in Canada, making it the second-largest market outside of the UK. The Banff Mountain Warehouse is next to a former Hudson's Bay that will see Arc'teryx open there next year.

Mandated $20/hour Living Wage Could Drive 600,000 Canadian Small Businesses to Closure, Warns CFIB Report [Interview]

CFIB policy analyst says that governments are setting these wages with no anchor in economic reality, while impacting thousands of small businesses already struggling.

Stokes Inc. Invests in Store Renovations and New Gift Line to Reinforce Market Presence [Interview]

The Canadian retailer of kitchenware, tableware, and homeware is upgrading its operations after a pandemic restructuring, including enhancing the online and in-store experience while launching new products.

How Big Food Companies Can Do More to Create Healthier Food Environments [Op-Ed]

A team of researchers wanted to understand the commitments companies have made to create healthier food environments in Canada, and to see if things had improved since an earlier 2018 study.

Canadian Custom Clothing Brand ‘Surmesur’ Expanding with New Locations, and Partnership with NHL Coaches’ Association [Interview]

The Quebec-based custom suit and clothing brand has grown significantly since the pandemic, with new and relocated showrooms and successful partnerships including making suits for NHL coaches.

Toronto’s Waterfront BIA Releases Comprehensive Report to Boost District’s Vibrancy and Retail Experience [Feature]

The report contains an overview of the planning context and best practices relevant to the area, a built-form review of existing commercial spaces, research summarizing the current retail conditions, and the results of surveys conducted with waterfront business owners, residents, and visitors.