KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Millions of people go to thrift stores to save money. April Hill said she goes to save herself.
Hill said she has six children and 15 grandchildren — so she's usually on a budget when she's shopping. She said she has several jobs to make ends meet, and she also helps her dad who is sick. When she goes to a thrift store, she said it turns into a place of solace for her.
"I lost a son through gun violence, I lost a grandbaby through a car accident," Hill said. "I just try to stay strong for my family."
Hill explained that it's like a little escape. But recently, she said she has noticed a new pattern at the places where she enjoys shopping — rising prices.
"I meditate when I'm in thrift stores. I look at things here and it just takes me somewhere else," Hill said. "They're a lot more expensive now than what they used to be."
Thrifting is usually one of the ways to find the best deals on common items like clothing or dishware, but many people have noticed that those deals may not be as good as they once were. Some experts said rising prices across the board, from consumer products to operation costs, may have led to higher prices in thrift stores.
Thomas Goldsby, the Dee and Jimmy Haslam Chair in Logistics at the University of Tennessee's Haslam College of Business, said rising prices may not be the only factor.
He said thrift stores are booming and when there's more demand for the merchandise — they can raise prices. He said more people have been shopping at thrift stores over the last few years, creating that increase in demand.
"So, thrift stores have that opportunity to increase prices by virtue of that increased demand," he said. "However, the cost of their supply has not really gone up."
Knox Area Rescue Ministries said they price their items depending on the condition, cutting prices down to a third of the original price. For example, if a brand new pair of jeans cost $100, then the price tag at a thrift store like KARM would be $33 for a secondhand pair.
"All of our items are priced at value," said Julia Dietz, director of marketing and communications for KARM stores. "And what that means is that we will actually do the research to look into, you know — is it vintage? Is it a name brand?"
Dietz said all of their profits go to the KARM ministry, including its programs to support people experiencing homelessness. Other thrift stores in East Tennessee include AMVETS, which is not associated with a ministry.
Hill, who has to watch what she spends as the caregiver of her family, said the best way she's found to save money is to compare prices. She said she also digs through available items and finds ones that she can be creative with, or improve.
"Some things are cheaper than going to the store to get it," Hill said. "So, I'll get it and fix it up."
Some steps you can take to save more money and find better deals are available below.
- Have your phone with you to compare prices online
- Check the label to see if you're getting a valuable piece, or if it is vintage
- If you live in an area where there are several thrift stores, check as many as possible when shopping for furniture
- When you shop for clothes off-season, they will be cheaper
- Find out when your favorite store restocks and shop that day to get the first pick
- Shop after they mark down prices
- Negotiate the price if an item is damaged
- Check which thrift stores give coupon deals