Meet the women running successful thrift stores online

Thrift stores first began as non-profits to help people living off the streets. But today, they are part of the $28 billion reselling industry. HerStory spoke with women running thrift stores online to see how they function.

With growing concern on the effects of fast fashion on the environment, people are embracing the concept of online thrift stores. Recently, reality TV stars the Kardashians also entered the reselling apparel industry with their online store Kardashian Klosets, reselling outfits they have worn on the show. The new entrants are now part of an industry that is expected to reach $28 billion in sales, according to retail analytics firm GlobalData. 

Thrift stores were first started as non-profits, but now they are becoming a part of normal fabric of clothes retail as slow fashion is gaining momentum, especially among the environmentally conscious. HerStory spoke to women running thrift stores online to understand how they are changing the negative connotations about thrifting. 

The desire to build a movement

Afifah Siddique was a program coordinator at the Center for Civil Society (CSS). She designed short educational courses in Public Policy for a year at CSS, but wanted to move and quit her job in July this year. 

The 23-year-old Young India fellow stumbled on the idea of a thrift store while looking for alternative career options. She wanted to do something on her own and her love for upcycling unique clothes led her on this path. 

On the streets of Delhi, Afifah found rejected clothes and thus salvaged them to create to ‘The Salvage Story’- a thrift store for vintage, boho-inspired and hipster clothes. She operates the thrift store on Instagram with help from her mother, a tailor and a rafoogar

She curates the clothes, gets them restored, uploads them on her Instagram account, and coordinates shipping. 

“I want to help build the movement towards making indie fashion affordable, accessible, and sustainable,” says the Sociology graduate from Miranda House, New Delhi. To build such a movement, she wishes to expand the store from an Instagram account to a full-fledged website, and probably a physical store too. 

Win-win for the pocket and planet

Nikita Almeida returned to Bengaluru in September 2018 after working for three years at a shopper marketing agency in Dubai. After moving back, she didn’t want a 9-5 regular job as she wished to bring about a change and make an impact. She was introspective about what had left an impact on her. The answer was her introduction to sustainable and pre-loved clothing during a short internship in Dubai. She had gone from shopping at malls and big retail stores to bargaining at thrift stores. She always liked sharing and swapping clothes with her friends and family. This led her to build her own thrift store - Collections Reloved in July 2019 that would help create a circular fashion community. 

Nikita has done everything from building the website and individually checking the clothes for quality and pricing, to doing the photoshoots. She acquires the clothes from the community on a consignment basis and sells the clothes on her platform. 

With Collections Reloved, Nikita’s aim is “to create an ‘eco-fashionable’ community who are not only conscious about their style, but also about its impact on the environment”.

Currently, she adds new ‘pre-loved’ clothes on the website every week, and at a given time there are a minimum of 100-150 clothes that are up for grabs. With a vision of making wearable sustainability accessible and practical, she wants to expand to having physical stores. 

Saving clothes from landfills 

Ashisha Rai, 20, was aware of the ill-effects of over production of clothes that usually ended up in landfills. She decided to save clothes from ending up in dumpsters and created an Instagram account Groovy Thriftshop to sell second-hand clothes. 

A Gangtok resident, Ashisha wanted to promote second-hand clothing especially among the youth who are more persuasive to the ‘slow fashion’ trends. She acquires her clothes from flea markets and posts them on her Instagram account. People place orders through DMs (Direct Messages) and she ships the ‘vintage items and the rare finds all over the country. With an initial investment of just Rs 2,000, she began uploading and fulfilling her orders, and now has a profit margin of Rs 100 on every clothing sold. 

The BTech student decided to use Instagram as it is the trend among her intended target group. She runs the business on her own, but wants to take it to a bigger online platform. 

Confessions of a Shopaholic

The story of Rachel Thong’s thrift store Assortments reminds one of the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic. She acknowledges her shopaholic tendencies leaves her with a mountain sized pile of clothes and accessories. She wanted to declutter her wardrobe to make space for new clothes. Hence, she posted things she didn’t wish to possess, and within a week, 80 percent of the items were sold. 

Seeing the opportunity to make a few quick bucks, Rachel, 23,  continued to post more. She buys most of her wardrobe either online or on thrift stores and other items that people might wish to buy. Her friends and family also contribute to her inventory. She posts them on her account, asks customers to pay in advance using online payment methods, and ships them off to a new home. 

With more people scrolling through Instagram rather than other social media platforms, Rachel decided to harness the ease and convenience of the platform to build her business from her residence in Kohima, Nagaland. 

(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)


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