As people cut their discretionary spending habits during the Great Recession, stores selling used merchandise at discount prices are thriving.
Secondhand and consignment stores grew at a rate of about 7 percent in 2009, according to the National Association of Resale Professionals, the world's largest resale trade association.
"The industry has always been recession-proof," said Adele Meyer, executive director of the association. "It retains customers, and once they get their first bargain they are hooked."
Consignment stores in Lodi and Galt are continuing to pop up. Within the last two years, Nice Twice set up shop in Galt, and both Couture Kids and UPtown Thrift opened their doors in Downtown Lodi.
At Nice Twice on C Street in Galt, owners Harold and Escaine Brown offer customers low prices on stuffed animals, vinyl records, used clothing, movies, books, china and more. Understanding the needs of his customers during trying economic times is vital to the store's success, he said.
"We keep prices low and aren't looking to raise them," he said. "If someone doesn't have two dollars to spend on something, they aren't going to have four dollars."
Secondhand stores generally have a large supply of clothing, but Harold Brown said toy horses, dolls and electronics are very popular items as well. The store sells a wide selection of Disney items that he said are quick to vanish from the shelves.
"Mickey rules," he said.
The couple takes pride in their merchandise, washing and cleaning it before offering it for sale.
"I won't sell anything I wouldn't give to my grandkids," Harold Brown said.
But where does the merchandise come from?
Secondhand stores obtain items from a variety of sources. Donations are a common source, but Brown said he checks out garage sales and buys items to sell in his shop. A large number of the donations that Nice Twice receives come from people who overindulged with their purchases before the economy slumped, he said.
"One lady donated 300 tops for little girls," he said. "Some of them still had tags on."
For consignment stores, the seller brings an item into the store and gets a percentage from the merchant if the item sells.
Secondhand merchandise is growing in popularity, and websites like eBay and Craiglist offer the convenience of armchair shopping, but Ripon resident Liz Thompson said she doesn't trust the Internet for used merchandise.
Thompson, who was in Downtown Lodi on Wednesday afternoon shopping with friends, said she prefers to see items such as clothing, furniture and jewelry in person before purchasing.
"I'm very skeptical of eBay and Craigslist," she said. "You get what you get there."
For Lodian Cherie Harth, part of her attraction to secondhand stores comes in the thrill of finding a bargain. The teacher recently remodeled the kitchen in her guest house and found a used kitchen set at a secondhand store. She was even able to bargain with the merchant to lower the price, she said.
Another incentive to shop at secondhand stores is the rotating stock, said Tracy Joyner, a Stockton resident shopping in Downtown Lodi on Thursday.
"You will always find something different," she said.
Sometimes what you find will be an excellent conversation starter, Harth said.
"The things you find will sometimes make people say, 'I remember when,'" she said.
It's difficult to see if the industry has hit its peak yet, since no one knows where the economy is headed, Meyer said. However, even if the number of stores doesn't continue to increase, the need for places selling used merchandise will never cease, she said.
"Children outgrow clothing, people out of work have to dress for job interviews, and people get married or move out and need new furniture."
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at email@example.com.
Secondhand stores in Lodi and Galt
- 2nd Thrift Store: 2441 S. Stockton St., 368-2112
- Classy Rags Thrift Store: 1520 S. Fairmont Ave., 366-2294.
- Couture Kids: 4 S. School St., 333-7989.
- Goodwill: 200 E. Oak St., 368-6938.
- Goodwill: 808 W. Kettleman Lane, 369-6052.
- Lodi House Thrift Store: 359 E. Lodi Ave., 365-7622.
- New & Again Consignment Furniture Gallery: 210 S. School St., 368-2200.
- Secondhand Rose: 14 N. School St., 339-1166.
- The Salvation Army: 525 W. Lockeford St., 369-5896.
- UPtown Thrift: 21 S. Sacramento St., 390-8799.
- Nice Twice: 1067 C St., 744-8450.
- Bargain Boutique: 205 S. Lincoln Way, 744-2697.
- Health Central Valley: 330 S. Lincoln Way, 251-7301.