The History of Thrift Stores a Thrifter Must Know

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Thrifting has occurred for as long as modern civilization has been, serving the general population by selling and purchasing secondhand products.

Although the secondhand trade has existed for a century, the ideals and sentiments associated with this mode of garment consumption have changed with each era. Knowing the history of thrift stores and its developments in the past may demonstrate that thrifting can become a part of any culture in different ways.

Thrift stores have nearly become second nature in recent years as an innovative and practical way to save money on necessities, but they weren’t always thought of that way. With the future of thrift stores looking bright, we shouldn’t forget about their humble beginnings that led to what they are today. Let’s take a look back at how thrift stores got started.

What is a Thrift Store 

A thrift store is a store that offers secondhand items. While shopping in these stores is known as thrifting. Although the phrase “thrift store” is most widely used in the United States, thrifting is also practiced in other countries. The phrase “charity shop” is used in the United Kingdom to denote a thrift store run by a charitable organization to raise funds.

The History of Thrift Stores: It’s Humble Beginnings

Textiles were scarce in the 1800s; thus people rarely discarded clothing. As cities grew and mass-produced apparel changed the game, well-heeled city dwellers began donating items from their closets to charitable groups.

Goodwill and the Salvation Army got their start as a way to fund outreach and ministry projects. Thrift stores—then mockingly referred to as “junk stores”—were born then. They were dubbed “thrift” stores in the 1920s to appeal to middle-class housewives rather than the immigrant groups who shopped there. Indeed, this was the answer to the question, “When did the first thrift store open?” However, despite the emphasis on ethical and cost-effective benefits, thrift stores and secondhand businesses were still subjected to racial stereotyping.

However, as time passed, the rules of the game altered after World War II. Followers of pop culture, counterculture, and high-brow culture went to secondhand stores in search of pieces from the past that better reflected their tastes and cost them much less than usual department store items. And, because of societal transformations such as grunge bands becoming fashion icons for their thrift store clothing and the Great Recession wreaking havoc on merchants and consumers alike, much of the stigma attached to the term “secondhand” has faded.

When Started to Become Popular 

While thrifting dates back to the late 1800s, it did not become popular until the early 2000s. Unfortunately, the fashion industry had adversely affected the environment during the early 2000s. For that reason, many tried to think of ways to limit the industry’s negative effects on the environment. Many people changed their shopping perspective and began purchasing secondhand clothing from thrift stores to reduce landfill waste and decrease their carbon footprint.

Thrift Stores in Today’s Age 

Thrifting has not changed and is still growing in popularity today. People continue giving their unwanted items to local thrift stores to support charitable organizations, communities, and even the environment.

Today’s generations, such as Gen Z and Millennials, are concerned about the environment and waste reduction. According to studies, 77% of Millennials want to buy environmentally friendly clothing that promotes sustainability.

The thrifting industry is likewise being transformed by technology. Thrift businesses can now sell their items through online retailers and social media platforms like Facebook. This allows thrifty shoppers to purchase wherever they want and deliver it to their door.

Best Things to Buy at Thrift Stores  

Aside from clothing, there are tons of items that you can choose from when you go to thrift stores. Here are some of the best thrift store items to find:

Kitchen Item 

You’ll probably need new kitchen items if you’re moving into a new place. Consider going to a thrift store before going to the big box store. You’ll probably be able to find everything you need for your kitchen at a thrift store.You should consider the savings and the environmental benefits of doing this.

Wooden furnishings 

Do you need a new side table? Do you need some new dining room chairs? Then visit a secondhand shop. When considering furniture purchases, a thrift store should be your first stop. There are many lovely pieces available at unbelievable prices. Even those in poor condition can be spruced up through DIY.

Photo Frames 

You don’t have to go out and purchase a new picture frame. Thrift stores have an abundance of picture frames. They may not be the same size, but they have a more comprehensive range of structures, designs, and colors than you could choose.

Toys and clothing for children 

Kids can grow so quickly. Hence, if you’re savvy and want to save money for the essential items for your baby, a thrift shop is ideal. You can get reasonably priced toys and clothing in decent condition. You’ll find everything you need, from onesies to adorable little Halloween costumes!


One of the most excellent things to get from thrift stores are books. While you should always support locally owned bookstores, the thrift store should be your first stop if you’re looking for some old books to add to your collection.


According to the history of thrift stores, clothes then were not as throwaway since they were more expensive. When the Industrial Revolution commenced, things began to change. Clothing began to be mass-produced and sold at low prices. People would purchase new clothes and discard their old ones. Although thrift stores started to become popular, people still believed that buying secondhand items was a sign of financial insecurity. However, things began to shift when Christian ministries began collecting used items to sell and raise funds for their initiatives. Today, thrift shopping is widely accepted and has become a norm.

Let the history of your thrift shop finds from Haven House Thrift Stores repeat itself within your homes.

Everything in this world started from something, and thrift stores are no exception. A seasoned thrifter must know the history of thrift stores to grasp where it all began, where the concept came from, and how it emerged more than a century ago. This gives us a fresher perspective that aligns with what we believe now as we support sustainability through buying at thrift stores in Lebanon, TN, and contributing to care for the environment.