Recycled clothing stores gain popularity

Posted 7/14/10

With two resale clothing stores opening in the south metro area within the last month, the newest trend in fashion seems to be used clothes. In this …

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Recycled clothing stores gain popularity


With two resale clothing stores opening in the south metro area within the last month, the newest trend in fashion seems to be used clothes.

In this new category of thrift store, clothes are often called “recycled” instead of used. They are generally a step above donation-based places, in terms of quality, but are unlike consignment shops because sellers don’t have to wait for their items to be purchased before they get paid. The stores only accept “gently used” clothes in current styles and pay sellers cash on the spot for their items.

Clothes are generally priced at 70 percent to 80 percent below retail price. Stores offer sellers 30 percent to 40 percent of the value. Instead of shopping by store or brand, people can shop according to their age, as each has a different target demographic.

Clothes Mentor, a women’s upscale resale chain, opened a store June 12 on W. Cross Drive near Southwest Plaza. The franchise caters mainly to women in their 30s, 40s and 50s and sells name brand clothes, shoes, bags and belts.

Owner Jim Gresham, of Littleton, said he got involved in the business because it sounded like an interesting market.

“Almost any store you can think of has a one-way relationship with their customer,” Gresham said. “We have a two-way relationship with our customer. You come in and sell to me and hopefully you’ll see something interesting in here that you want to buy. You have to be selective in what you buy, but price it low enough to make it interesting for them to come into buy it. It caught my interest immediately.”

According to Gresham, the June 12 opening was one of the top five openings in the 35-store, nationwide chain. Gresham is still working to build inventory back up.

“We moved a lot of inventory that day,” he said. “We need to accumulate additional clothes.”

Uptown Cheapskate owners Kim and Kelley Allen opened their used clothing store on South Quebec Street in Centennial, just north of County Line Road, on June 1. The Littleton residents have been buying items and filling the racks and are scheduled to open for sales July 15.

Uptown Cheapskate is another franchise, the first one of its kind to open in Colorado. The store serves a slightly younger demographic — men and women 18 to 35 years old — and has more casual clothing than Clothes Mentor.

Kelley said he and his wife bought Uptown Cheapskate because they are business people with experience in clothing who were looking for a new opportunity. But Kelley said the down economy also factored into their decision.

“It’s a very timely business for the economy,” he said. “I think it makes a lot of sense from the standpoint that recycling clothes is a great idea today and giving people a value for their money is a huge opportunity. People need to save money and earn money for things they aren’t utilizing.”

Kelley said the recession is also contributing to the rising popularity of these types of retail stores among shoppers.

“I think people who wouldn’t have considered going into a resale shop in the past are giving it more credence. We’ve seen people from all income ranges come in here.”

Plato’s Closet, a national recycled clothing store chain that opened in Littleton in 2003, is located just a few doors down in the same shopping plaza as Clothes Mentor. It may seem like the two would be in competition with each other, but both say that’s not the case. Gresham said moms shop at Clothes Mentor while their daughters shop at Plato’s Closet.

“It may seem like a threat having Clothes Mentor, another recycle clothing store, open up so close to Plato's Closet… but it has actually been great,” said Plato’s Closet store manager Emily Lord. “They cater more toward women, whereas we cater to teen guys and girls, and (Clothes Mentor) buys some of the brands that we do not, which is perfect for our customers.”

Since Plato’s Closet has been around for seven years, it witnessed first-hand the effect the 2008 economic downturn had on business.

“We have always had the customer base of students and families on a budget, but after the recession we did start to see more traffic with people of all backgrounds bringing items in to sell to receive cash on the spot or to trade for new clothes,” Lord said.

Gresham was less sure about the recession’s influence on recycled clothing stores. He is confident that his store, and this type of business in general, will thrive no matter the economic conditions.

“I think the economy has some sort of an impact, but I don’t think you can really measure it in that sense,” he said. “It’s a kind of store that will do well in a down economy because people are more budget-minded, but when times are better I think it will continue to do well. If we continue to get good items and price them properly, I think this is going to take care of itself.”


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