If you’ve ever thought, second hand stores are just full of junk that nobody wants… this post is for you!  If you’ve ever thought, I don’t have time to go to second hand stores and scour the racks for hours… this post is for you!  If you’ve ever thought, how does she find such good stuff at the thrift stores but I never do… this post is for you! 

10 Strategies for Success in Second Hand Stores
Just a few of my great second hand scores including a Theory dress for $1.75, new-with-tags silk Isabel Marant dress for $9.10 and leather Prada loafers found in the men’s section for $10!

Success in Second Hand Stores is Easier Than You Think

It’s true, I’m in my seventh year of thrift shopping so I’m at expert-level thrifting, but you don’t need years of thrifting experience to get hooked on second hand shopping! I’m sharing ten easy tips to have more success while thrift shopping no matter where you live or where you shop!

1. Before you hit the thrift store, have an idea in mind of what you’re looking for.

Call this setting your intention or being goal-directed or getting your thrifting mojo on! Whatever you call it, it sets the tone for your shopping trip. You can make a list or start a Pinterest board like I did to help keep your thrift-hunting wish list in mind BUT…

2. Be open to possibilities.

You don’t want to miss that DVF printed wrap dress because you were so busy looking for a little black dress.

As another example, I found these Salvatore Ferragamo shoes abandoned on the floor in the middle of the shoe section. I wasn’t looking for stilettos but they were apparently looking for me!
Strategies for Success in Second Hand Stores
One more example, I was in line at the till and spotted this Anthro-brand wool cardi stuffed on the rack. I rescued it, bought it and it’s one of my treasured finds!

3. Be aware of sales.

Sure $6 for a top is a bargain but 75% off a $6 top is AMAZING! Some second hand stores post their sales on their Facebook page or in email newsletters. Some offer frequent-buyer discounts or discounts if you donate. All will have their daily deals posted in store including colour tag sales in Goodwill stores. I don’t always do this but sometimes I will only look at pieces that are on sale! Regardless, know what the sales are so you can prepare to brag about your $2 dress – you’re going to want to shout it from the rooftops!

Tips for Success in Second Hand Stores
When you get to a second hand store, look around for the sale signs or ASK!

4. Wear a tank top and a loose skirt.

Not all second hand stores have fitting rooms and even if they do, they might be locked or packed, so be prepared to try things on in the aisles. This happened to me recently – the Goodwill fitting rooms in Austin were a gong show and had I waited for them, I would have been there all night. Instead, I went to the furniture section, found a mirror and tried on my pieces in 5 minutes flat. No flashing, no waiting! (Be sure to hang them up and return them to the racks when you’re done though. And YES you have to try them on before you buy.)

5. Start in the shoe section.

Even if you’re not looking for shoes, scan the shoe racks for good brands in your size and if you find some you like, wear them around the store while you shop to gauge comfort and wearability. This tip alone has saved me from hundreds of dollars of uncomfortable shoes that would have otherwise come home with me. And, on the other hand (or foot!), it has led me to some of my biggest scores!

Tips for Success in Second Hand Stores
$600 Robert Clergerie shoes in new condition for $9.10.

6. Shop one or two sections per trip.

Unless you are skilled at spotting the diamonds in the rough, focus your attention on one or two sections per trip. I find a lot of great thrifted dresses because I often focus only on the dresses. My friend Karlynn finds lots of vintage glassware because that’s her focus.  People who “never find anything good” at the thrift store probably actually missed the good stuff because they weren’t looking thoroughly enough. Unless you’re spending hours at the second hand store,  take my advice and focus on one or two sections.

Tips for Success in Second Hand Stores
Lately I’ve been focusing on sleeveless tops – you can never have too many in Houston!

7. Look one size above and below your usual.

Pieces get misplaced or stashed, or they’re donated in the first place because they don’t fit according to the tag. So look above and below your usual size and look at the piece itself rather than the size on the tag to gauge if it will be a good fit.

Tips for Success in Second Hand Stores
I have found pieces in literally every size from kids to size 0 to size 24.

8. Google while you shop.

You don’t have to be a brand expert to find major scores. But if you come across a piece that appears to be good quality, do a quick search of the brand. Is it a designer label, an Anthropologie brand, an Amazon brand? That doesn’t mean you can’t buy something if it’s not a fancy brand. I have found pieces in common labels (yes, even Walmart brands) that I loved. But knowing their value will help you make your final purchasing decisions.

Tips for Success in Second Hand Stores
An example of some unfamiliar labels I Googled today. The Lamo are UGG contenders, then we have a Nordstrom brand, a vintage US designer, a boutique label, a UK brand, and an inexpensive made-in-US brand.

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and I’ll share the trick resellers use to search labels!

9. Check out the discard rack and new stock racks.

That rack outside the fitting rooms is a veritable goldmine! Don’t leave without going through it. Same goes for the racks of new stock waiting to be put out. That’s your chance to be the first to see the goods!

Tips for Success in Second Hand Stores
Someone else’s NO could be your HECK YES!
I found this $6 wool-blend Escada cardigan outside the fitting room!

10. Go frequently.

Last but not least, go frequently to second hand stores. Unlike regular retail, the stock in second hand stores is constantly changing. With some little thrift shops, you can inquire when new arrivals are put out and time your thrift trips accordingly. With bigger thrift stores, there is new stock daily so any day is fair game for a hard-core thrifter! It does NOT make you a shopaholic to go thrifting on the regular – it makes you smart and more likely to find those thrift scores!

Following these ten simple strategies will lead to success in second hand stores!  Trust me, I’m a doctor an expert!

xoxo Nicole

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