Not just ‘old lady shopping’ – Social media, upcycling, shrinking economy make thrifting more popular these days

CATASAUQUA, Pa. – At Violet’s Closet in Catasauqua, Bethlehem local Xiara Rios is ready to stock her own closet with new clothes. New to her, anyway.

“I remember when I was a kid and my mom would take me to thrift stores,” she said. “I would be like, ‘oh, like here we go, old lady shopping. But…it’s more like newer-generation things that I would find interesting on my own body.”

On Wednesday, 69 News found Rios shopping with her mom and grandma: three generations of women, all who love thrifting for different reasons.

“My grandma, you know, came here from Puerto Rico,” Rios said. “She didn’t come here with a lot of money. So thrifting was a very big alternative for her.”

“It’s very affordable,” Rios’ mom, Johanna Castillo, said. “Especially at a time like this. So it just tends to be a great time for us to kind of spend together as a family.”

Meanwhile, Rios herself says she got into thrifting thanks to social media and the new trend of “upcycling.”

“Upcycling more is like, you buy something like from the thrift store and you take it home and you make it your own,” she said. “Watching people turn a jumpsuit into a crop top and some skirts. It’s really interesting to me.”

Owner Mariama Teixeira says she started seeing more shoppers during COVID, when folks were home cleaning out closets.

“We thought that we were going to sink during the pandemic,” Teixeira said. “And believe it or not, we were thriving during the pandemic.”

Now, in a shrinking economy, business is booming.

“We’ve never really had a lot of back-to-school shopping,” Teixeira said. “And we’ve noticed that lately, we’ve had so many people come in with their children, you know, shop for back to school.”

It’s becoming a “global phenomenon,” according to online thrift shop Thredup, which predicts the secondhand market will grow 126 percent by 2026.

Meanwhile, sales are down in shopping giants like Target, which recently reported a quarterly profit down almost 90 percent from last year.

And Walmart tells 69 News wealthier households are trying to save money as well: about three-quarters of its market share gains in food came from customers with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more.

“I definitely love thrifting,” shopper Izabela Albino, from Bethlehem, said. “But I do go to my like, you know, Target if I need something specific.”

Albino was shopping at The Attic in Bethlehem.

“You find a really, really good pieces, especially purses,” she said. “I usually come like every couple of weeks because you don’t know again what’s coming in.”

General Manager Michele Oh says she started seeing more thrifters even before she began working at The Attic eight years ago. Many, she says, come in to be more conscientious.

“It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans,” Oh said. “Any synthetic fabric is responsible for a majority of the microplastics in our oceans.”

Oh says her store also receives bags and bags of things to upcycle every single day.

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