The most demographically diverse store I’ve found so far is the West Loop Good Will at Racine and Washington. It has shoppers from Tweens to Seniors and they all seem to find things they want. I’ve surveyed a dozen other resale shops, including one that sells appliances, bought stuff, left or donated stuff, and here’s what I concluded.
1. People under 30 who shop as such places appear more affluent than you might expect. This is feeble-minded research based on the diamond rings these young women wear. I have not spotted one with fewer than two carats. Why buy used? I fell into conversation with several such people and their refrain was consistent: Why would you pay more for anything than you needed to?
2. The Seniors who shop at such places have exactly the same attitude. It’s the ultimate separation of can from will. ”Of course I could buy retail but why should I, especially for commodity merchandise, i.e., wine glasses, small appliances, replacement coffee pots, holiday decorations, and most of all, books.” Apparently seniors have not embraced the iPad yet.
3. What’s the smallest group shopping there? It’s non-ethnic Boomers. They still want brand new, the latest, one-of-a-kind. They appear embarrassed to see anyone they know at such places — even upscale resale shops. It’s not smart to them to buy used.
4. As in most fashion the young lead and the Boomers follow. Will they do so, can they, follow the call to cheaper is better? A certified used car is peer approved but are used Manolos the same thing? Most Boomers cringe at the prospect.
Ultimately what’s important in the “buy used” trend is how much money it frees up for other uses. We know that twenty- and thirtysomethings save at four times the rate as a percentage of income as Boomers. We know the Boomers will work longer than any generation in American history — and not at minimum wage jobs. What we’re waiting to see is when/if Boomer savings will climb. I thought they would save more as the Great Recession eased but there is no sign of either. A report in progress: stay tuned.
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