July 8, 2015

Contact: Adele R. Meyer, Executive Director
586.294.6700 or

Resale Thrives in a Slow Economy

St. Clair Shores, MI — The resale industry is one of the few recession proof segments of retailing. Not only does it survive during economic downturns but it grows and thrives... shining with promise. The appeal is twofold... consumers are attracted to buying quality merchandise at a fraction of the original cost and there is a financial incentive to sell, consign or donate their unused or unwanted items.

With food and energy costs increasing, housing expenses rising, home values & retirement accounts diminished and the stock market still a concern, it is no wonder consumers are feeling cash and credit constrained. As they run out of purchasing power, they cut back on discretionary spending and change the way they shop—but don't be mistaken, people will still shop! Some people shop because it makes them feel better, others shop out of need... professionals still have to look good, children outgrow their clothes, teens need prom dresses and newlyweds have new homes to furnish. Economic downturns present the opportunity for resale shops to attract new customers. Even people who never worried much about saving money before will have a realistic attitude about the economy and cut back. In an uncertain economy—when people are shopping cautiously and focused on getting more value for their money—resale is the natural choice. The industry offers the best of both worlds... the chance to SHOP & SAVE! With the economy posing a challenge and the fact that many people have an overabundance of possessions, savvy shoppers and sellers are realizing a real need to recycle perfectly good merchandise.

Resale attracts a new demographic of both suppliers and customers during difficult economic times. "People who previously gave away clothing, household goods and furniture are seeking other ways to dispose of unwanted items during an economic pinch." says Adele Meyer, Executive Director, "Some donate merchandise to a Not For Profit resale shop and take advantage of the tax deductions while helping a charity raise money. Others may choose to sell or consign merchandise at a local resale shop... turning their 'no longer needed' articles into CASH!"

Consumers have caught the resale bug as they look for resourceful and creative ways to cut back on spending, particularly for clothing and furniture. Once we get them in our stores, we keep them as customers. When the economy improves, we will still be part of their preferred shopping experience—they love how "smart" they feel when shopping resale. "A slumping economy may draw people in, but once they visit a resale shop for the first time they are pleasantly surprised with the high quality of merchandise and are forever hooked on a new way of smart spending," says Kitty Boyce, NARTS Past President and owner of Remarkable Resale in Rochester, IL. "The popularity of resale has never waned, and we believe our members will come out of this recession in a stronger position—with a larger customer base—as a broader section of consumers explore the many options the resale industry has to offer."

NARTS members have reported significant increases in both sales and incoming inventory as consumers seek more value for their dollars and search for sources of extra income. NARTS released its 2015 Operating Survey with statistics based on figures provided by members of NARTS. The report was compiled, tabulated and prepared by Industry Insights, Inc., a professional survey research firm.

The Operating Survey showed a growth in net sales of 5.0% for 2014 from 2013. Respondents reported strong growth rates for the past five years with 2012 being the strongest. This is a significant increase considering that retail sales overall had a growth rate of 3.7% in 2014 from 2013 and discount department stores experienced a decrease of -2.1% over the same time period, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Contrary to some media reports of decreased suppliers (consignors/sellers/donors), NARTS members have experienced an increase in the VOLUME of inventory coming in their stores with many reporting a higher QUALITY of incoming items. Stores also experienced an increase in new customers. Resale is definitely thriving during a time when other segments of retail are reporting significant decreases every month.

While other segments of retailing are cutting back on advertising and promotions and are trimming inventory and staff, resale professionals are taking the opposite approach. NARTS member shops have been very aggressive in their advertising and marketing programs aimed at attracting a new demographic of customers and suppliers—those who may not have taken advantage of the benefits of resale before a decline in the economy. By maintaining their staff, resale shops are able to offer personalized service generally not found in the large department and discount stores. NARTS members pride themselves on their high level of customer service.

Sue McCarthy, NARTS Past Board Member and owner of Women's Closet Exchange in St. Louis, MO, is always proactive in advertising and promoting her business in slow economic times. During the recession in the early 90s, she doubled her TV commercial budget when most retailers were cutting back on advertising. As a result, Women's Closet Exchange increased their inventory, gained new customers and hired new employees to handle the surge in business. McCarthy remarked, "We do well because I don't listen to the media reports of doom and gloom. Instead we just keep doing what we do best... providing quality merchandise at affordable prices to our customers. We are rewarded with a business that has flourished for two decades—during both times of prosperity and recessions."

Ellen Didion, owner of Chic to Chic and her second location, Chic to Chic Too, in Maryland said, "Reporters who recently visited our stores were quite surprised to hear so many positive things from our customers. They come in here and completely forget the outside world and their concerns about the economy for a little while. At Chic to Chic they can always find something that is within their budget—they shop around, talk to each other, model clothes for all to see and even if they do not make a purchase, they know they are always welcome to browse and will leave feeling better than when they first came in! Women LOVE to "gather"—aka shop—and consignment stores as well as thrift stores still offer guilt-free shopping!"

Improved selections and better quality merchandise have driven increased consumer commitment to resale, resulting in new shops being opened throughout the country at a rate of about 7% a year. This is a higher growth rate than in previous years and something NARTS expects will continue this year. People who have recently become unemployed and are looking for other career opportunities are exploring the possibilities of opening a resale or consignment shop. Charities seeking additional sources of revenue are opening up Not For Profit resale stores. NARTS members have also been expanding and opening additional locations. Some members are increasing their space to include specialty categories such as bridal, plus size, sporting goods, teens or furniture. A number of clothing stores have opened additional locations catering to teens or specializing in furniture... two of the fastest growing segments of the resale industry. By specializing, resale stores can appeal to a specific demographic of customer and supplier—creating a shopping experience aimed to their unique needs.

"Many factors contribute to the popularity of resale during both strong and unsettled economic climates," states Meyer, "Increased awareness of recycling, the quest for higher quality for less money, the lure of finding something distinctive, the 'thrill of the hunt' and the excitement of a good buy are just a few things that allure the savvy shopper. One of the foremost reasons that resale thrives in a slow economy is simple... People LOVE value for their dollar!"


NARTS, the world’s largest resale trade association, is dedicated to continuing education within the resale industry. The Association serves resale shops of all types by providing educational and professional development for future owners and current store owners/managers. Please visit the NARTS Website at: for more information.