The difference between thrift, consignment and vintage stores

The difference between thrift, consignment and vintage stores and shop the stores that work best for your personal style.

Types of secondhand stores can cause a lot of confusion and many stores are slightly different in very nuanced ways. In this post, I’m breaking down the difference among thrift, consignment and vintage stores so you can decide which is best for you and be strategic with your shopping.

Thrift Stores

Thrift stores – these stores accept donations and then sell the items. The person who donates the items does not receive any compensation. They may request a tax donation receipt. Thrift stores are connected to a non-profit or charity in some way. There is a thrift store for everything – animals, children, women, teachers, etc.

What I love about this is that you can be impactful with your donations – choosing to donate to the stores that you resonate with. If you shop at thrift stores, choose to shop at the ones that align with your values and what’s important to you. Hit the internet and find the thrift stores near you that have missions that align with your values. Here’s where I shop in Phoenix.

Consignment Stores

Consignment stores – Consignment stores involve three sets of people – the store owner, the consigner and the customer. The consigner is the person who brings in their items to be consigned (sold) and will be compensated in some way for the items.

Some consignment stores will buy your items outright – meaning they don’t have to sell before you can get paid in cash or have store credit applied. Other consignment stores will accept your items and build your account as your items sell.

Regardless of the arrangement, you will get more “money” for your items by keeping it with the store in an account vs. getting paid out. For more on this read – Why you need a consignment store strategy.

There is a proliferation of online thrift and consignment sites including ThredUP, The RealReal, Tradesy, Swap, and more! You can be your own seller with apps like Poshmark.

In general, consignment stores accept more recent items, brand specific items and higher quality items than thrift stores. Thrift stores accept what is donated. In some cases, whatever is donated, regardless of the condition is put on the floor for sale. However, other thrift stores are like small boutiques and they have a strict intake process so that while they may accept older clothes, the items must be in good condition and without stains or holes. Do not assume that all thrift stores sell ratty, worn, smelly clothes. I could go on and on about the amazing clothes I have found at thrift stores. People will donate anything and everything.

Vintage Stores

Vintage stores – Vintage stores focus on specific items from a time period (25+ years ago or more) or just older clothes in general. Some stores will focus on very high end items and others will offer items that are older but can range from t-shirts to ball gowns.

Again, hit the internet and find what’s near you and what they focus on for their stores. Vintage is sourced from a variety of places from estate sales to people bringing in older clothes to the store owners sourcing their pieces from discards from thrift stores. Every store is different. Some stores will pay you for what they accept and others won’t. Again, do your research and call the stores or visit their websites.

It is very feasible to find vintage clothes at consignment and thrift stores. Some consignment stores will accept high end vintage items. Thrift stores will take anything that is donated and if the item meets their standards for selling, they will put it out on the floor. I have found a number of exquisite vintage pieces at Goodwill.

Ready to start shopping secondhand as part of your sustainable style journey? Read these posts to help –

Add Poshmark to your secondhand strategy

How to shop secondhand for clothes

The importance of measuring yourself and your clothes

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