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Recession prompts students to get thrifty

While many businesses struggle during hard economic times, others, such as thrift stores, have experienced increased sales partly because of the nation’s weakening economy.

Many thrift stores around USF reported that their sales have increased within the past year, and students seem to be spending their money at thrift stores rather than more expensive retail stores.

According to the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops, the industry has experienced a growth in its number of stores — approximately 5 percent per year for the past three years.

Selena McCullugh, store manager of the Tampa Goodwill Superstore, credits the store’s slight increase in sales and larger clientele to the current economic situation.

“A lot of people want the same things but don’t have the money to do so,” she said. “Shopping at our store allows them to get that same quality without the price tag.”

Life’s Treasures Thrift Store also reported higher sales within the past year.

Manager Terry Hudson said the store is seeing new customers on a regular basis, especially those buying clothing and furniture.

“Overall, people are so much more conscious of what they’re spending,” Hudson said.

Chelsea Tieu, a sophomore double majoring in chemistry and history, volunteers at Life’s Treasures. She said customers wait for the store’s sales because, in the end, it comes down to money.

“The first Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the month, we have a 50 percent off sale. We get cleared,” she said. “It’s really crazy on the weekends.”

Not all thrift stores have had the same luck.

Pam McCoy, manager of Second Image Thrift Store, said sales shot up in October but have recently decreased.

“It slowed down around Christmas — most people would like to buy their loved ones a new item,” she said. “Even though we have tons of new things here, it’s kind of a mind thing.”

Many college students frequent the store, McCoy said, but she hasn’t seen a noticeable increase in student clientele. She added that the store should start to pick up again when sales begin.

Another factor to take into account may be the number of donations the store receives.

Major Don Smith, administrator of the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Tampa, said he noticed a moderate decrease in the first quarter of the fiscal year, which he attributes to fewer items being donated to the stores.

“In times of recession, sometimes that level of donations begins to decrease,” he said.

Smith said more people are holding their own yard sales to generate extra money rather than donating their used belongings to the Salvation Army. He said he hopes this trend reverses itself.

Students who frequent thrift stores said they have been more cautious of how they spend their money.

Austin Hutchinson, a senior majoring in English, said he has been more careful with his finances.

“Other things cost more money now, so I use less on clothes,” he said.

Regardless of the economy, Tieu said she has always been cautious with her money.

“When I spend more than I want to, I’m not too happy about it,” she said. “I buy    anything on sale.”

Manuel Penton, a senior majoring in biomedical science, said he likes that he never knows what he will find. Penton, who is in a band, said he found a synthesizer from the 80s while thrift store-shopping with a friend.

“It was great — it was really cool,” he said. “You can’t find that anywhere else besides a thrift store.”

Penton also bought a Banana Republic jacket for $3. New jackets from that brand cost up to $350.

James Leavitt, a senior majoring in elementary education at USF’s  St. Petersburg campus, said he has been shopping at thrift stores since his freshman year. He comes from a large family and grew up wearing hand-me-downs.

Leavitt said that a white suit at a regular retail store may cost $50 or more, but he found one at a thrift store for $6.

“I wore that outfit to a work Christmas party — a formal — and when I worked at a camp for a ’70s day where I looked like John Lennon,” he said. “You can find the coolest things at thrift shops — everything’s cheap.”

Thrift shoppers might even find wedding attire, Leavitt said.

“There’s no way I would do that for my wedding, though,” he said. “I’m not that cheap.”