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Extreme ‘hustling’ trend upsets Victoria secondhand clothing sellers

$6 shirts being found for $50 at a vintage pop-up store
Shoppers at the ReLove Market at Market Square. (Ella Matte/News Staff)

When chatting about thrifting vintage and used clothes in Canada, Victoria is never too far from the conversation. Not only have many Victorians made extra cash selling used clothes, but many have made a living from it.

But many Victorians in the thrift and consignment community have noticed an ugly trend of resellers buying secondhand clothing for low prices, but reselling items for an outrageously expensive price.

“Those resellers are making a huge profit,” said Shun Okumura, a student from Japan studying at Camosun College. He resells and buys used clothing, but is not a fan of the upselling within the thrifting community.

An experience Okumura had was when he “had this nice shirt that I bought from Value Village for $6 and someday I went to a vintage pop-up store and found the exact same shirt that was selling for $50. It didn’t make sense.”

Emily Wolf, a student at Oak Bay High School, also buys and resells secondhand clothes and is frustrated with what she calls “hustling” by other resellers. She had a similar experience to Okumura online when she found “people selling Carhart jeans on Facebook. You could buy a new pair for maybe like $95 if you wanted to, but they’re selling them for like $130 and they’ve got paint stains all over them and rips and everything. They’ll label them as vintage, even though they’re new and it’s frustrating because you know the actual price of the pants.”

Resellers often buy many of the pieces they sell from a consignment or thrift store.

“They’ll go to Value (Village) and buy a bunch of things and the whole total of all the things they have bought comes up to like $50,” Wolf said. “Then they’ll sell one shirt that they found for $50 which has like a hole in it.”

She says resellers will label the clothing as “vintage” when really it’s “just an old beat-up t-shirt that was made in the 2000s.”

While resellers are increasing the prices of items they bought for less at a thrift or consignment store, the stores have reached a point of over-saturation.

“There is way too many resellers in this town, which means a lot of them are usually at the thrift store,” Okumura said. “It makes it harder for everybody else to find cool and unique clothes from the thrift store.”

Wolf has suggestions to combat falling victim to overpriced clothes.

“Before buying something, I look up how much it costs online because usually on Facebook that’s what people do – they sell it for more. So you have to research what you’re buying before you buy it.”

When pricing the clothing she resells, she takes the same factors into consideration.

“I research the thing that I bought and see if I can find it somewhere else on a used site and I’ll compare prices. I’ll say ‘that’s too much or that’s too little’ and I’ll go in between or lower.”

Her low price range is due to the demographic that buys her clothes as they are.

“Usually teenagers or like young adults who probably don’t have the most money.”

Jacqui Tacon, owner of the consignment store The Velvet Crease, has a similar way she picks her price points, except she collects her clothing through donations.

“I assess what their retail value is and I sell them based on what a fair market value would be today.”

The Velvet Crease and Tacon were recently at the ReLove Market, a secondhand clothing event that happens monthly. While at the market, she was selling a used coat for $300 that normally retails for $700. She justifies her low price range because she said, “there are so many great pieces to be found second-hand. I just feel better offering them up for sale at markets like this for a fair price.”

ReLove Market founder Sarah Little wants her vendors at the market to “understand the importance of ‘letting people have things, as opposed to letting them want them.”

She encourages resellers to make clothes accessible to anyone and not just individuals who can afford to pay expensive prices.

“Secondhand vintage clothing isn’t really this unobtainable thing that we’re chasing,” Little said.

Affordability is an important aspect of the market, but Little said, “the resellers do have some pieces that are going to be worth a little bit more as they have withstood the test of time. They were made really well, great quality. So it’s making it about the pieces and not about the dollar bill.”

Okumura agreed.

“I don’t dislike reselling or resellers because it’s way easier to find a nice and specific thing from them, but I want everyone to be able to buy what they want for an affordable price. Although high prices can be discouraging for anyone who wants to buy secondhand clothes, buying used clothing is still believed by many to be an ethical, environmentally friendly and fun way to shop.”

The next ReLove Market will be on Saturday, June 3 and Sunday, June 4 at Market Square on 560 Johnson St. Both days the market will run from noon to 6:30 p.m.

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About the Author: Ella Matte

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