It is really amazing the stuff people will donate. I have found designer clothing brand new with tags, and sometimes people will tell me "ugh my thrift stores never have stuff like that". The area where a thrift store is located can have an impact on the inventory they have, but I travel a lot and been to MANY thrift stores. With persistence you can find amazing pieces even at the smallest thrift stores in less prosperous areas.
I would say on average I am in a thrift store 5 out of 7 days a week. I list new pieces every day, so it is important for me to always have new inventory. In years of reselling I have definitely found a groove with sourcing and shopping thrift stores. If you're reselling or shopping for yourself, I've come up with some shopping tips I follow to get my hands on the best, cheapest inventory!
Shop Earlier In The Week
In my experience, I find the racks are fuller and more "just in" clothing is being brought from the back Monday-Wednesday than other days of the week. People are organizing and donating their items when they have time, which is usually on the weekends.
Check Clothing With Missing Brand tags
A lot of clothing at thrift stores have the brand tags removed, probably because the previous owner found them uncomfortable. If the item looks/feel high quality but is missing the brand tag, check the interior side tag that includes the materials. There will be an RN number you can search to find the brand name.
Ask about weekly specials
Many thrift stores have weekly specials (ie color tags of the week, military discounts, student discounts, etc) so make sure to ask or get a calendar so you can see when some items are cheaper or when you may qualify for a discount. Many of my Goodwills will have the occasional weekend special where all clothing is $2, so I will ask the cashier if they know of one coming up.
CHeck the just in rack right away
Whenever a store brings out a rack of clothing straight from the back, I always beeline straight there. These items are new to the floor and have never been picked through, and this is honestly where I find so much of my inventory.
identify the tagging system
Many thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army have a color tagging system where throughout one day all the inventory will be tagged one certain color (to be used in the previously mentioned color tag specials) When I am looking at a just in rack I will take note of the color, and then look for big bunches of this color tag on the other racks. These are probably new items from the day the employees have just put away.
Sign Up for the email list or follow the store on social media
Especially lately with the influx of donations, a lot of my thrift stores have been having random sales to get inventory moving. They usually share these sales through an email or on social media.
Check all sizes and departments
It's not so important for me and reselling, but for people who are buying for themselves a lot of thrift stores will *try* to keep the store in order by size. However things get moved around and misplaced so much I wouldn't rely on it. As well, I find a lot of higher end women's jeans in the mens section, and surprisingly I find Lululemon in the kids sections. If you have the time, look through all the departments!
Check End Caps and fitting room return racks
Pre-covid I would always check the go back racks out side of the fitting rooms. People have already done the work of searching the rack for goodies, it just didn't fit for them. Now that fitting rooms are closed, I always check the end caps of racks, especially those by mirrors. People are holding them up and inspecting them here, and leaving behind the ones they change their minds on.
If you have some insider thrift knowledge of your own you would like to share, leave a comment down below!
One of the things I enjoy most in this world is finding great deals. The secondhand fashion industry is growing like crazy, and there are so many awesome designer deals out there if you spend the time and know where to look! I have alerts set on a number of selling sites, like Mercari, which is where I purchased these adorable Prada espadrille sandals. These alerts will send me a notification when someone lists an item I have been looking for in a specific price range. I was so excited to get an alert about these because they were a classic piece that would go with so many things, my size, and priced SO LOW!
These espadrille sandals were originally over $700 new. (!!) The seller on Mercari described these as "worn once" and looked practically brand new. I sent an offer that the buyer accepted, and ended up getting these sandals for...
Most the of the used sandals in this style are going for $200-$250 on Poshmark and eBay, so I am still a little bit in shock that I got these so low. Those alerts can be your best friend!
NWT Zara midi dress new with tags, thrifted $6 / Prada espadrille sandals secondhand, Mercari $53 / Longchamp tote bag new, gift / Burberry nova check scarf secondhand, eBay $30
I found a number of similar secondhand Prada sandals from Vestiaire all under $100 that you can click and shop below!
I bought this Burberry nova check scarf a couple years ago from eBay for only $30. The print is so classic and the scarf is so versatile. I wear it around my neck, on my bag, and in my hair!
A designer belt is a great way to posh up a bread and butter outfit. The last two designer belts I've purchased was a GG Gucci belt from an outlet mall...
...and the one I most recently bought is a black elastic Prada waist belt for under $40 off Poshmark!
The thing these belts both have in common is that they were wayyy too big when I originally bought them. You can get a lot of clothing items altered, but the great thing about belts is that they are so easy to alter yourself, or super cheap to take into a cobbler! The Gucci belt was way too long, so I took it into a shoe cobbler who only charged me $5 to add a couple more holes and trim the end of the belt off.
The Prada belt consists of an elastic piece that I had to take about six inches of material away from. I didn't want to actually cut up the elastic band in the event I wanted to do anything different with the belt in the future (or gained weight lol) so what I did is, I sewed u where I would want the belt to end with dental floss, then sewed down the ends for a cleaner look. Almost looks like a bow!
A great way to find some killer designer deals is to start looking outside your usual size!
It was not long into my reselling journey when I heard about Nordstrom's final clearance store Last Chance located near Phoenix, Arizona. Known for near nothing deals on clothes, shoes, accessories, and home goods, items end up in this store for a variety of reasons. You will find a lot of the same item if they overproduced or overestimated the interest in the product. As well, a lot of one off items end up in the store due to Nordstrom's generous return policy. If the item is no longer on the floor, or is too worn to be sold in their Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack stores, they end up at Last Chance. I'd seen other people's amazing hauls from the store, but really had no idea of what to expect going into this experience. I thought I would share the good, the bad, and the ugly (!!) of my 3 hour experience there to hopefully help any other people decide if those deals are right for them! Keep scrolling to read!
Before The Store Even Opens
I knew this place gets busy (duh, great deals) and I was going on a Sunday so I was expecting a crowd. However, rolling up to the store 30 minutes before they open, I did not expect already to see a line of people wrapped around the building! The store is located in the basement area of an indoor shopping center, however they start lining people outside and around the building before they open. I would guess there were already at least 50 people waiting in line when we got there!
Once it was only a few minutes before opening, employees came out and sorted the people waiting into two lines, those who wanted to shop shoes first and those you who wanted to shop clothes first. They definitely had a system down to avoid chaos! I chose shoes because, well, I was just overwhelmed and this was the closest line to me ha. From there the employees led us single file down into the store, so far so good!
Similar to Goodwills in my area, all the items being sold at Last Chance have different color price tags. The day I was there, the sales they were having included 50% off all purple tags, and 80% off the purple tags on long dresses. Everyone swarmed that area when we entered, so there was barely anything left by the time I made my way to that area of the store. Most of the items I bought that day were purple tags, so there were definitely a lot to choose from. Honestly, I didn't pay more than $15 for one item, with my average item cost being around $9.
Outside of the purple tag items, 99% off the items I saw (all color tags) were priced SUPER low. I was pretty picky just because I am not a super big fan of retail arbitrage, but if you are purchasing for your own personal closet these deals can't be beat anywhere. I'm talking DVF wrap dresses for $30. I heard some women talking about how they are used to Last Chance having more discounts, so its possible there are days where more colors tags and items are discounted.
What I was not expecting was to find that most of the items in the store did not have original tags attached. It makes sense that they would do this to deter reselling, but wow that must take a lot of work. (There are even signs around the store forbidding reselling) However, I was still able to find a few pieces with the original designer tags attached. I was worried that maybe the cashiers would be on the lookout for this and remove them, but honestly they were in such a hurry to check people out they didn't even notice/care.
Another thing about the items that I was not expecting was how many were visibly worn, especially for the shoes. Most of the shoes had scuffs and wearing on the soles. I guess this speaks to Nordstrom's return policy. Even items that had original tags attached still had holes or pulls in the material. I recommend THOROUGHLY looking over piece of clothing you are looking to purchase for any irregularities. As far as the range in clothing brands and designers, while a lot of the items in the store are Nordstrom's lower end brands (Halogen, BP, Hinge, etc.) there was also still a very large amount of mid (Tory Burch, Kate Spade, DVF) to high end (Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Burberry, YSL, Chloe) to choose from.
The Other Customers
Ok, this is where everything gets a little nutty. Everything up to this point has sounded great, but you really need to be alert and keep your wits about you in this store because people are not here to leisurely shop. I've shopped a lot of sales and thrift stores in my lifetime, but none of those trips really prepared me for this place. The people are here to find the good deals, and find them before anyone else. Most of the common decency you would expect at a Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack will not be found here. People WILL push your cart out of their way. They will grab an item out of your cart if it is something they want. They will jump ahead of you on the rack to grab something right out of your hands. While I was looking through a rack of jeans an employee rolled out a rack full of down jackets, some of which I saw had the Moncler symbol on the arm. I beelined that direction and was only about a foot away when two people jumped in my way and made me stop while they grabbed EVERY SINGLE JACKET OFF THE RACK. I just stood there for a minute literally like :0
Another little interesting tid bit of info is that Last Chance only has a couple fitting rooms, so don't be surprised to come face to face with a topless woman squatted behind a clothing rack trying on shirts. Nothing to see here folks.
Like most Nordstrom Rack stores, the checkout counters are at the front of the store. After I was done shopping, I was surprised to find that the checkout line went from the counters at the front of the store down the middle of the store to the back, went along the backside of the store, and turned back up almost all the way to the front of the store. Pretty much a full upper case "U". But like how they wrangled us into the store at the beginning, the employees really have a handle on lines and keeping things as organized as possible. There were employees along the way that took off your hangers and security tags. As long as the line was, it probably only took me about 10-15 minutes to get to the front of the line.
Tips FOr Success
- Get there early to take advantage of the biggest deals of the day
- Bring a buddy along so they can watch your cart if you need to go to the bathrooms (which are outside of the store)
- Lay a big item over the top of your cart and your other items so no one takes them out
- While the racks having size sections, a lot of items are disorganized and out of place so I recommend going through all racks
- When you see a new rack being rolled out FOLLOW IT AND BE THERE FIRST
- Only water is allowed inside the store, but I definitely bring some because time moves at a different pace inside this store
- Keep a mental note of what items have the big security sensors on them and make sure they get taken off (one of them got left on one of my items)
- Wear a crossbody bag to allow maximum arm usage
- Dress comfy because I can assure you no is there to impress anybody (I think the opposite actually lol)
- Look over every single item CAREFULLY because so many items have holes or defects, and this store is no exchange/refund/return
Overall for me, I would come back in a heartbeat if I find myself in the area again. I may even make the 10 hour round trip just to come to this store again. Considering the brands I found (a lot of which I've never been able to find in a thrift store) it is the perfect situation for me because I absolutely live for the hunt of a good deal. But if you prefer the comfortable, leisurely shopping experience, and don't mind paying up for that, THIS IS NOT FOR YOU. It was fun reliving this crazy experience with you, and if you have any questions or your own experiences with this store to share feel free to leave a comment below!
I've started enjoying this new challenge recently where I try to see how low in price of an outfit I can make out of my current wardrobe! Its a walk down memory lane of my past conquests and makes me even more thrifty when shopping now. And I have really outdone myself with this one, where I literally only paid $1 for the top+jeans+shoes+bag! (Ok sorry this doesn't include the Gucci sunnies, but it was so bright outside) Keep scrolling to see all the details!
Banana Republic Tie Front Blouse [new, $0] Banana Republic Raw Hem High Rise Jeans [new, $0] Banana Republic Navy Block Heel Sandals [new, $0] Ralph Lauren Leather Tan Crossbody [secondhand, $1]
So how did I get all that Banana Republic loot for $0?? Rewards my friends, beautiful rewards <3 Those bad boys NEVER expire in my possession! The top, jeans, and shoes were all completely free when I applied the rewards I had received from the purchases I made with their credit card. It's important to remember that in order to get the better end of these store credit cards you have to pay it off every month in order to avoid crazy high interest rates. Otherwise you are paying so much more than you are getting back!
Unfortunately the top is over a year old but I found a nearly identical one from H&M for under $12! It's so classic and preppy, it is definitely a wardrobe staple!
The most flattering jean in the world is a dark high rise skinny jean. Don't @ me on this. Another thing I look for in a jean is a cotton/spandex/elastane blend because they are stretchy but don't stretch out. These are my most recent BR reward purchase and I love that they are so versatile but have the fun raw hem bottoms. I've linked a very similar pair from Banana Republic below, currently over 30% off + free shipping!
Navy just happens to be my favorite clothing color and my most recent shoe obsession is a nice, retro block heel... so when I pulled these shoes off the clearance shelf, last pair AND in my size I was so freaking excited! There thick heel + ankle strap makes them so easy to walk in and the color goes with everything. Sadly they aren't making these anymore to link but I have found a few similar pairs on sale below! (those Calvin Kleins are on serious clearance!!)
And lastly, something that wasn't bought at Banana Republic. This Ralph Lauren leather crossbody was actually a Goodwill find! In the LA area, many goodwills participate in a Thursday tag color day where the tag color of the week is $1. And somehow this bag managed it's way all the way to Thursday and I snagged it! Couldn't find any good sales on a Ralph Lauren piece like this (they retail from $200-300) but linked a couple similar, classic brown crossbodys below.
Thanks for following along! I'm loving this series because it really pushes me to be an even smarter shopper and find more classic, versatile bargains (and steals!) Let me know what you think of these types of posts below in the comments. :)
Live for luxury? No trust fund, no problem!
Join the fancy free journey as we seek the
finer things in life, sans millions.
- Marie Claire, September 2016