Terry Chesky said she's had a few first-timers in the store today already—new customers sifting through racks of denim and tables of cheery home accents and jewelry, as the Christmas shopping season winds to a close.
Chesky, owner of consignment boutiques Eco Chic in North Fayette and Moon Township's Consignment Cottage, said she's seen an uptick in shoppers seeking to purchase gently used items as holiday gifts for loved ones—a trend she says is easier on both shoppers' wallets and the environment.
She said the recent economic downturn and growing awareness of environmental sustainability has been a boon for consignment shops this holiday season.
"We're coming out of that huge period where everyone was in love with buy, buy, buy," Chesky said. "Now it's much more about reuse and recycle. That's definitely a trend we're seeing."
John Wellard, assistant manager at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store on Chess Street in Coraopolis, said thrifting has become an increasingly popular way for local shoppers to pick up gifts without breaking the bank.
Consumers looking to escape the bustle of the Mall at Robinson might just choose to buy second-hand this year, stopping into the newly opened Goodwill in Robinson or at other Pittsburgh-area resale shops.
"People have a lot of misconceptions about shopping thrift," Wellard said. "We get a lot of people coming in here. Their expendable money available is less than the year before and they can get more for that money here."
Chesky's boutiques are stocked with gently used high-end items, often worn just once or twice before being turned in to her store. In addition to home accessories, Kate Spade sandals and Vera Bradley handbags line her shelves, offering customers a chance at picking up designer brands at a fraction of their original price.
"It's the value of stretching your dollars," Chesky said. "I had a girl come in yesterday and she bought a top for her daughter. I asked her how she was doing and she said 'I just finished my goal of buying everything consignment this Christmas.'"
Wellard said customers will drop into the thrift store to finish off their Christmas shopping lists.
"We do sell new items too, but even if you're going through the used items, you can find upscale stuff, more fashionable and you get it at that reasonable price," he said.
Chesky's Consignment Cottage opened in 1992 on Moon-Clinton Road; Eco Chic opened its doors two-and-a half years ago on Park Manor Boulevard.
She said her clientele has skewed younger in recent years. A few employees are Robert Morris University students, who say their friends frequent resale shops to bargain hunt for name-brand items.
"Shopping here, you get both the uniqueness of the item and value for your dollar," Chesky said.